Beijing Boycott | Jasmine Elasaad
Imagine this: you’re an athlete who has been training your whole life for the slim chance of competing in the Olympics. Against all odds, you have survived brutal, forty-hour workout weeks, made the team, and now hope to bring prestige and honor to your country. Only now your country has abandoned you. Left without national support, the event has just become a little less spectacular for you. This has just become the real-life, unfortunate fate of the U.S. Olympic Team with the Biden administration’s recent announcement to boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
This decision is a pretty big deal, and a controversial one at that. The last time a full-scale Olympic boycott occurred was back during the Cold War era. The 1980 Olympics were to be held in Moscow, and President Jimmy Carter faced intense pressure to instate the measure following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This time around though, the nation’s decision to boycott is an attempt to protest against China’s treatment of ethnic minorities and pro-democracy individuals. China has detained the Uyghurs, a chiefly Muslim group native to the Xinjiang region, and has managed to spark outrage among many different countries as a result. Over one million Uyghurs have been placed into re-education and labor camps in Xinjiang in what China explains is an effort to prevent terrorism and help integrate these people into society. China had also garnered negative U.S. attention with their recent squashing of a pro-democracy movement held in Hong Kong, as well as their policies towards both Taiwan and Tibet. Advocates of the boycott argue that China would use the 2022 Olympics as a means to spread propaganda, and attending would essentially give a stamp of approval to their oppressive policies.
Though the partial boycott really only applies to politicians and diplomats (athletes are still allowed to attend), it is still pretty much guaranteed to damage U.S. relations with China and majorly increase tension levels. Some more extremist human rights groups hoped that the White House would fully boycott the Olympics, athletes and all. However, this failed to gain enough traction. Nevertheless, China’s foreign minister Zhao Lijian declared that this action would be met with “firm countermeasures” and deemed it a “serious offense to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.” Countries like Canada, Australia, and the U.K. are now also entertaining the possibility of taking part in the 2022 Olympic boycott. Others, like New Zealand, have already officially announced their decision to stay at home on February 4th. The rest are unwilling to put their trade relations with Beijing at stake for an act that they argue will merely irk China rather than create any sort of real change.
All things considered, this diplomatic boycott simultaneously manages to hold China accountable for acts the Biden administration deems abusive while also refraining from punishing U.S. athletes too harshly. Though sad that athletes can’t celebrate alongside their nation’s ambassadors, at least their hard work won’t go completely unrewarded.