The clock is ticking away, counting down to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The next edition of this event has become something of a hot potato since it’s being held in Beijing.
Participation in the games could be viewed as some sort of endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party and their many human rights abuses, including the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs. This has led to discussions of possibly boycotting the games next winter and now the Biden administration is apparently taking a serious look at the prospect of doing that. But no decision has been made yet, since Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken both want to consult with our allies before making the call. (Washington Examiner)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken hopes to develop a “coordinated approach” to a potential boycott for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as China’s atrocities against Uyghur Muslims galvanizes opposition to the games.
“It is something that we certainly wish to discuss,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday. “A coordinated approach will be not only in our interest but also in the interest of our allies and partners.”
Blinken has avoided expressing specific preferences about the 2022 Winter Games, which have been slated for Beijing since 2015. China’s repression of the Uyghur population has intensified in the years since the communist regime won the competition to host the games.
I wrote about the prospect of a US boycott of the games last month, and a lot of the concerns being raised by the administration are similar to my concerns. Aside from missing out on the curling competition, I’m mostly ambiguous as to whether or not we go. The major points of contention here all seem to rely on how a boycott would be organized (if it’s going to happen) while balancing that against the needs of our athletes who have been training for this for most of their lives.
While keeping our participants on the bench would be a serious blow to them, I think the argument put forward by Ted Cruz is the least persuasive one in the discussion. He recently said that boycotting the games would give China “an easy way to run up its medal count.” But if America isn’t even competing, the perceived “value” of those medals goes down. And the fewer countries that attend, the less value those medals will have.
That point feeds into the question of how such a boycott would be organized. It’s not hard to picture what would be happening if Donald Trump had secured a second term. If he wanted to punish China, he would have just unilaterally pulled us out. Biden is looking to get a lot more of our allies to sign off on the deal first. Honestly, that’s not a bad approach. If a significant number of competitive nations all agree to sit it out, it will be a significant black eye for the CCP and the games will become largely irrelevant. But if we’re the only ones who don’t show up, all we’re really doing is punishing our athletes by making a statement without really doing anything truly impactful to China.
Advocates for the Uyghurs are still insisting that the International Olympic Committee move the games as a message to China. That would probably be the ideal situation, but thus far the IOC hasn’t said anything about even considering such a plan, assuming it’s even possible. Those games are awarded years in advance because it takes a country time to make all of the required preparations and usually construct new facilities. There’s less than a year to go. Unless they were postponed for a bit, who could pull off hosting the games on this little notice? Even if they were moved to a city that’s already hosted them before, the new host would definitely be left scrambling to get their old facilities in shape for the big show.
One other possibility would be for the United States to offer a competing international winter sports event in a city that’s hosted the games before, most likely Salt Lake City or Lake Placid. If you don’t need all of the glitz and glamor of the actual Olympics, it might be more easily set up. And any country with serious concerns over China’s human rights violations might consider pulling their athletes if an alternate competition like that was offered in its place.