The Winter Olympics Shouldn’t Be Happening In Beijing, But They Are
There Are Many Reasons Not To Look Forward To The Feb 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Writes Rob Pegley.
There are many reasons not to look forward to the Feb 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But then didn’t we say that before Tokyo?
FIFA and the IOC really have quite a lot of countries to choose from when awarding the World Cup and Olympics respectively, so it beggars belief that they would pick Qatar and China to host 2022’s two major sporting events.
Not only are they both countries with appalling human rights records and any number of other atrocities that make a boycott seem reasonable, but in even simpler terms the weather scenarios are a shocker.
It is ridiculously hot in Qatar, so much so that the World Cup has been moved six months away from its normal June/July home, just so games can be survived in the so-called cooler months. Beijing in February on the other hand, is not guaranteed snow - there are reports it may have to be shipped in from elsewhere. Snow is quite important when it comes to the Winter Olympics.
FIFA have pretty much admitted that they made a mistake and many of its members have been turfed out for taking a bribe. The World Cup will not be moved from Qatar, however, despite requests from other nations.
The IOC though are standing by their decision to take the Winter Games to Beijing, saying that it “remains neutral in all global political issues”. Which frankly isn’t good enough, given that it has a charter that promotes equality and anti-discrimination.
The genocide of Uyghur muslims and their enslavement in camps, revealed by the release of the Zinjiang papers in 2019, should be enough alone to warrant moving the games. Add the treatment and censorship of journalists - both domestic and foreign - the Hong Kong protests, trade sanctions, the build up of weapons in the South China sea, and you have a veritable Lazy Susan of problems to choose from.
The backlash started slowly: first the snow issue, then concerns that the creation of venues was harming the local environment, and even that the official song sounded too much like Let It Go from Frozen. All pedantic window-dressing ahead of the main event.
The Winter Olympics shouldn't be happening Beijing, but they are, and we will love them for the two weeks they are on
Since then the US has called for a boycott, the UK has said they may boycott, Dutch and Canadian MPs have protested, Australia have grumbled.
A diplomatic boycott seems the likely outcome with athletes still allowed to compete, but China would not be happy as a result. The State-owned Global Times has said China would sanction countries that don’t send official diplomats. The IOC have doubled down on their poor decision-making, by saying sporting sanctions may also follow.
And so at this stage China seems set to welcome foreigners through its borders between Feb 4 and Feb 20 2022, for the first time since COVID broke out in Wuhan at the end of 2019. With their zero tolerance for the virus they fully expect zero domestic cases at the start of the games and stadiums to be packed with vaccinated locals. The rest of the world will therefore see the natural beauty and incredible space age venues of Beijing, that can’t help but make China look impressive on the world stage, no matter what else is locked away out of sight.
As for the sport itself, well the Winter Olympics are very much variations on a narrow theme - skiing, skating, and getting into or onto things that slide down an icy track.
For a couple of nights every four years we love a bit of Bobsleigh, Luge and Curling (like bowls on ice, with manic broom sweeping, remember?).
Figure skating has genuine beauty though and the Ski jumping has supreme skill and bravery. The NHL has agreed for players to take part and so we will witness Canada’s brilliance in the Ice Hockey.
Watch out also for the beautiful Chloe Kim, at only 21 already defending her 2018 Olympics Gold Medal in the snowboarding half pipe. Charlotte Kalla, at 34 possibly in her last Olympics, already the holder of nine Olympic medals across multiple events. And Yuzuru Hanyu, the slender men’s figure skater from Japan who seems untouchable for gold again.
The Winter Olympics shouldn’t be happening in Beijing, but they are, and we will love them for the two weeks they are on. That’s what happened in Tokyo, where despite all reservations it was one of the most memorable games in recent times.
Then from March 2022 let’s look forward to the Paris Olympics in 2024, the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, and normal service being resumed.