Original art by Jordan Frazier.
The Olympics are worldwide events where the best athletes from around the world compete in order to win a medal for their country. The events also represent that different people, cultures, and languages can coincide with each other to have a friendly competition. However, that can’t be said when politics are involved in the Olympic games. Currently, the 2022 Winter Olympics are being held in Beijing, China, a country that is the center of many controversies. The most recent is the repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, fear of arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and more. As a result the United States and several other countries have conducted diplomatic boycotts. The goal is to show that they do not tolerate the human rights abuses that the government of China has carried out.
The boycott occurring now at the Winter Olympics is strictly diplomatic, meaning only diplomats aren’t participating, as all of the U.S. Winter Olympic athletic teams are permitted to go onto the Olympic stage, making this boycott an outlier among the previous Olympic boycotts, which involved both the diplomatic and athletic teams not participating.
Keshav Vijay, a junior at Washington High School, talked about the abuses happening in China. “It’s not epic at all and what China is doing is just inhumane,” he said. However, Keshav also said, “I personally don’t feel it will change [anything] as China will probably ignore them.”
In reality, Keshav isn’t wrong. Currently, out of the ninety-five countries participating in the Winter Olympics, only seven—the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, and Japan—are not sending diplomatic teams to the Winter Olympics. Out of the seven, only four are actually boycotting China for its human rights abuses, as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Japan haven’t made an official statement about whether their officials aren’t traveling because of China’s human rights or because of Covid-19. Due to these circumstances, the United States’ boycott of China’s 2022 Winter Olympics is not going to have much influence over China and the Olympics in general.
The final problem that arises from the boycott is the issue of whether politics should be involved in sports, especially the Olympics. Arsh, a junior at Washington High School, says, “Sports is about the [competition] between athletes and politics should be gone [from sports].”
While some support this idea, there have been many instances of political demonstrations from Olympic Athletes. The most famed moment was during the 1968 Mexico Olympics when African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the U.S. national anthem to protest racial segregation. Other moments include the 1900 Olympics, where the first ever female athletes were featured, and the 2016 Brazil Summer Olympics where the first ever Refugee Olympic Team was made in light of refugees being displaced around the world. Due to positive moments such as these, there has been a divide on whether or not politics should truly be expelled from sports, but the truth of the matter is that the Olympics, and sports in general, can truly change the world in one way or another.