The World Today for December 20, 2021


Olympic-sized Snubs


When President Jimmy Carter ordered an American boycott of the 1980 winter Olympics in Moscow, he sought to punish the Soviet Union for invading Afghanistan, as Biography explained. But critics said he simply punished athletes without accomplishing anything tangible.

The “diplomatic boycott” of the games in Beijing next year by the US and others is raising similar questions.

American athletes will be able to compete in the games. Neither Biden nor other US officials will attend, however, a snub designed to draw attention to China’s long list of human rights abuses – the treatment of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, the crackdown on pro-independence advocates in Tibet, the genocidal persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang region and other affronts, wrote the Washington Post.

A diplomatic boycott ensures that American leaders don’t grant tacit approval to Chinese leaders’ actions while still allowing for the soft-power engagement that comes from American athletes winning medals on the world stage, the BBC noted.

Vowing countermeasures, Chinese officials called the move a “self-directed political farce” that politicized the games contrary to international norms, CBS News reported. At the same time, Chinese officials are pressuring American multinationals to “push back against campaigns” to boycott the games, the Post said.


Worldwide reaction has been mixed.

Australia, Britain and Canada joined the boycott, CNN noted. Japan reportedly won’t send top-level officials, either.

South Korea, however, has opted not to join its allies, saying that constructive engagement with China would be a better way to achieve its interests, especially the de-nuclearization of its neighbor, North Korea, according to Agence France-Presse.

Cuba blasted the idea, CGTN wrote, saying a boycott harms “the spirit of brotherhood and fraternity of the event.”

Europe is torn. As Reuters reported, China is the bloc’s second-largest trading partner. German businesses that are the backbone of their export-driven economy have invested mightily in commercial partnerships in China. Lithuania is joining the boycott. Hungary will not. France and the Netherlands want to arrive at a common policy of some sort.

The International Olympic Committee has assured the world that athletes will be able to exercise freedom of speech at the games but added that competitors could not hold political demonstrations at sporting events or medal ceremonies, Deutsche Welle wrote. The Committee also disputed assertions that Chinese authorities have blocked journalists from covering the run-up to the games, the Guardian added.

In the meantime, the preparations continue. Chinese officials are cutting factory emissions in order to clear up air pollution in the capital during the games, the South China Morning Post wrote.

But a cloud will still hang over the competition.

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