In the next two years, sports fans can look forward to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. However, as we get closer to these major events, more and more people have called for boycotts as both countries have muddled histories and human rights abuses.
It has gone so far that White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Monday, Dec. 6 that the Biden administration would not send any diplomatic representatives to the 2022 Olympics. The U.S. will be implementing this diplomatic boycott due to the human rights abuses and the Muslim Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang. Winter Olympic athletes will still have the “full support” from the administration, but they won’t be “contributing to the fanfare of the Games,” Psaki said.
Now looking to the 2022 Qatar World Cup, there are many issues that have arisen. Their history of human rights is messy to the say least; there is no freedom of the press, women have limited rights based on male guardianship, not to mention homosexuality is illegal and punishable with three years in prison.
Since the announcement of Qatar’s hosting, foreign workers have had virtually no rights, living and working and even dying in awful conditions while building fancy new stadiums.
There are also allegations of corruption, as the U.S. Department of Justice found evidence which, in their opinion, showed Qatar paid bribes in order to host the 2022 World Cup. The profit that comes from the World Cup is more important for countries’ football federations than the lives and well-being of those in Qatar.
There are also controversial things China is doing right now. Just look at Hong Kong or Tibet–they are committing a genocide against a religious minority in their country right in front of the world’s eyes. These Olympics are similar to the Berlin Olympics of 1936 when the Nazis were persecuting Jewish people, as well as others.
To me, we need to take a firmer stand to pressure China on their human rights record. The Olympics are a tool that can be used by countries as propaganda, which we saw with the 1936 Olympics.
We can’t let another country legitimize itself, its actions and make it “accepted” into the international community by using the Olympics or any other major international sports event as a public relations tool.
The U.S. under President Jimmy Carter fully boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympic because of the Soviet Union’s invasion into Afghanistan. Some people, including former President Trump, claim this boycott didn’t do anything. Yes, the Soviet Union didn’t dissolve right then and there, but this move wasn’t expected to do this.
This was a fully symbolic measure, which I do agree sometimes isn’t enough and you do need to take action. However, in regards to China, a boycott of these Olympics would tell the international community that their actions aren’t acceptable.
If the Biden administration and us as sports fans are to do nothing, that is sending the message that you can commit terrible atrocities and have no negative effects. To stay silent about these atrocities is to be complicit.