While it might feel like the year has just started, conversations about the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are already underway. More specifically, an op-ed published in the New York Times by Utah Senator Mitt Romney calling for boycotting the games has gained traction.
When a country hosts the games, there are many burdens, including the extensive costs for building stadiums. Yet, there are also benefits. Countries who have hosted the Olympics end up with better infrastructure and increased foreign investments and trade.
Beijing was selected to host the 2022 winter games back in 2015, but not everyone is thrilled with this idea. As Romney points out in his op-ed, it is too late for the games to be moved to a different country due to the vast preparation required.
Why is Romney calling for the boycotting of the 2022 Winter Olympics?
China has been in the news for multiple reasons in the past year. The Chinese Communist Party overturned their decision to allow Hong Kong to self-rule. This resulted in pro-democracy protests that have been met by assertive authorities. Some outcomes of the protests have been journalist arrests and meeting peaceful protestors with excessive force.
The Muslim Uighurs, an ethnic minority living in the northwestern area of Xinjiang in China, are being detained in concentration camps. Uighur women are sterilized or impregnated against their will, thousands are put to tough labor and families are broken apart. Other minorities like the Tibetans have been oppressed by the Chinese government as well.
Lastly, the Chinese government censors social media and news networks. They constantly watch their citizens which is limiting to their privacy.
In this instance, boycotting is not suggested for the athletes. Romney pointed out that the athletes shouldn’t have to take the hit for something out of their control.
The suggested method of protest is through the economy and diplomacy. Through American spectators and fans staying home, less revenue will be generated for China through typical tourism purchases in addition to the price of the tickets. He noted that the families and coaches of the athletes should still attend.
Typically, U.S. diplomats and senior White House members are sent to the games. Romney proposed having President Biden “invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent us” (nyt.com).
In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow due to Jimmy Carter’s disapproval of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. While this was a strong stance, nothing came out of it. The Soviets didn’t leave Afghanistan for another nine years and by not going to the Olympics that year, the Soviets boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles four years later.
It is unknown what would happen to the U.S. - China relation if a boycott were to occur. Since both of our economies heavily rely on each other, the fallout could be disastrous. This could be a high risk low reward situation (nationalinterest.org).
While a full boycott is a symbolic way of showing disapproval, it isn’t doing anything to hold an entire country accountable. The method suggested in both articles of a diplomatic boycott would allow government support to be withdrawn while still allowing the athletes to compete.
While it is unsure what the games will look like, including the unknown of the ongoing pandemic and vaccine distribution, only time will tell what the U.S. attendance will look like.
It should be noted that the article referenced by Mitt Romney is in the opinion category. While parts of the essay are factual, in reference to the reasoning for the proposed boycott, the suggestions are purely from his opinion. The National Interest article is also in the opinion category.