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  • Lala Wu

Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing 2022

You must know the system of a normal boycott. Perhaps it was taught to you by Mrs. Brandon or Mr. Rendich in 7th grade. America boycotted the Townshend Acts imposed by Britain and all that American Revolution trivia. Boycotts target actions or policies that a nation or consumer group find offensive.

So, Why would countries even consider boycotting the Olympics?? Isn’t it just a competition for accomplished athletes representing their own countries? It’s just a fascinating spectacle, no? Why would anyone want to boycott such a gripping performance?

In fact, countries sometimes decide to boycott an Olympics to protest against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or to challenge aspects of the hosting country. These aspects can include but are not limited to racial discrimination, human rights abuses, and major military aggression.

On March 21, 1980, US President Jimmy Carter announced the boycott of the Summer Olympic Games that were to take place in Moscow, Russia. Countries such as Japan, Germany, and Canada soon joined the US in contributing to the boycott. Their goal was to protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. When an international coalition introduced the idea for athletes to participate in the Games under a neutral banner, Carter reacted by threatening to revoke their passports. While the public was in awe of the dedication of Americans to fight the oppressive regime of the Soviet Union, many also felt that the President was stealing the dreams of numerous athletes that trained so hard to shine like a star during the Olympics. In addition, there existed a possibility that they may not qualify for the next Olympics in 1984. The boycott also affected the profits of broadcasting companies like NBC.

Amid increased tensions between Washington (United States) and Beijing (China), President Biden announced, on December 7, 2021, that he will not send any US representative to the 2020 Winter Olympic Games to be hosted in Beijing. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stated that reasons for this diplomatic boycott are “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.” Specifically, the Chinese government has targeted the Ugyhurs, and other Muslim minorities. Beijing has placed many of the former in labor camps and may have even resorted to mass sterilization measures.

Many countries around the world endorsed President Biden’s decision, including Australia, Japan, and Britain. Relations have also cooled over treatment of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, as well as that of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who accused a Chinese government official of sexual assault.

Although there exists considerable hostility between the nations, American athletes are expected to travel to Beijing and compete in the Games as arranged. Psaki declared that, “We will be behind [Team USA] 100% as we cheer them on from home[, but] we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.” She, along with many others, believe that it isn’t right to discipline athletes who have been training strenuously for so many years for the 2022 Games, and “[they] felt that [they] could send a clear message by not sending an official US delegation.”

A statement made by the IOC affirmed that the “Olympic Games and the participation of athletes are beyond politics and we welcome this.” In response, one Chinese spokesperson retorted, “The US just wants to politicize sports, create divisions and provoke confrontation.”

On the other hand, contradicting America’s so-called diplomatic boycott, the government is already applying for 18 Olympic Visas for officials. In addition, it was revealed that applications for 40 more officials will soon be submitted in the near future. Even though the boycott still stands, the US has confirmed that the representatives will be sent to China to provide “consular and diplomatic security services” for American athletes and workers. Chinese spokesperson for foreign affairs, Zhao LiJian, said, “The US side on one hand claims it will not send any diplomatic or official representation, but on the other hand it is applying for visas for its officials across several departments, including the State and Defense departments. This sort of rhetoric is puzzling.”

Whether or not the US sends delegates to Beijing to overlook the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Games should be amazing. The games start on Friday, February 4th.


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