Beijing 2022 latest games to hide ugly practices
Now here is another chance for the International Olympic Committee to do the right thing.
No, not to cancel the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Though it should probably also be very hard to think about.
The 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are even more worrying given the appalling human rights situation in China against dissenters and religious minorities. Another article was published last week about the mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs in a complex of prisons and re-education camps that are estimated to have devoured a million people. This time systematic rape and forced sterilization are accused.
The new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described the abuse of ethnic minorities in the genocide in Xinjiang province as a repetition of his predecessor Mike Pompeo.
Earlier this month, 180 human rights groups called for a boycott of the 2022 Olympics in response to the IOC’s inaction.
Because the IOC looked the other way as always. Though China assured him it would improve its human rights record when it received the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Instead, China went tougher than ever before.
The IOC could take a stand. The IOC Got to Take position.
The IOC has been here before. Especially in 1936. Far from implying that the Chinese regime was similar to the Nazi regime that hosted the Berlin Games, there was a similar increase in resistance against the host country. By 1936 it was evident that Adolf Hitler’s government was rapidly rearming and violating the Versailles Treaty, which ended World War I, by reoccupying demilitarized zones. Concentration camps were set up as early as 1933 and the ideological anti-Semitism of National Socialist Germany could already be seen naked.
But the IOC ignored all of that. The IOC President wrote to the US Olympic Committee, headed by the future IOC President Avery Brundage, that he, too, “does not like Jews personally,” but had the assurance that the Games would be open to everyone. Brundage, who later ousted John Carlos and Tommie Smith from the Olympic Games in Mexico City because of their Black Power salute on the medal stand, traveled to Germany, admired Hitler and gave the American delegation his blessing. This extinguished any hope of an American boycott, which even Jesse Owens, who would become a star with his four gold medals, had initially supported.
The Nazis, who were allowed to keep their Olympics, then used it as a powerful propaganda tool unlike any before to further their rise. There is no telling how the removal of the 1936 Berlin Games could have changed the course of the next decade, but it is likely that these Games helped normalize and validate a fascist and apparently dangerous regime. Just as the 2008 Olympics allowed China to improve its credentials as a modern nation. Just as the strong Russian Vladimir Putin used the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi to flex his muscles.
But in this and all related matters, the IOC hides behind its alleged apolitical nature. Regardless, when Pierre de Coubertin rejuvenated the Games in 1896, he organized the athletes according to countries they had not visited at the Ancient Games. Because de Coubertin believed that nations that could show their pride and compete in a friendly environment with young men well prepared for battle through exercise were less likely to wage actual wars. And regardless, when the IOC considered ending the practice of playing anthems and waving flags on the medal stand in 1968, the motion was rejected and opted to maintain nationalism – and hence politics – thereafter. The games were always political.
The 21st century has further proven that the idea that sport and politics are separate things is a lie, that sport is an escape isolated from the rest of life. Sport is one of the clearest mirrors of society and thus politics. The declared aim of the apolitical Olympic Games has been hollow for decades, perhaps since the United States and the Soviet Union boycotted and boycotted each other over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 and 1984.
As long as the IOC is willing to uphold this pretext, the Olympics will continue to be used as an expensive veneer to cover up the ugliness hidden beneath.
China didn’t deserve to host another Olympics. There is ample evidence that it has not made the promised advances on human rights – that it has declined, if at all. If the IOC wants its signature event to remain the festival of humanity it claims to be, it must also strive to serve and protect that humanity by finally drawing a line.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a columnist at Emox News and a lecturer in sports communications at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
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