Controversies ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing


The Winter Olympics of 2002, held in Salt Lake City.

In the past, the Winter Olympics have always been an opportunity for sports fanatics to support their favorite athletes and discover new sports. From figure skating to snowboarding, the excitement for the Winter Games grows every year. The 2022 games seemed no different until many countries began boycotting the Olympics. So what makes this year so different? Why are so many countries, including the U.S., Australia, and Britain boycotting such a rare event that only takes place every four years? 

The 2022 Winter Olympics soon became a political controversy with many unanswered questions. In the status quo, the Winter Games are set to take place in Beijing, the capital of China. However, in the past year, China has found itself under further scrutinization for its measures to combat ‘religious extremism.’ According to the U.S. State Department, “up to two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have passed through detention centers in Xinjiang,” comparable to torture and labor camps, to forego their religion, culture, and language. In December, White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained how “the boycott would serve as a clear message against China’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.” Soon, other countries followed suit in taking a stance against the humanitarian crisis.

However, following the announcement of the U.S. boycott of the Winter Games, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, heavily criticized the U.S. for “politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called diplomatic boycott.” Expectedly, Lijian did not stand alone in condemning how the U.S. handled the ‘diplomatic boycott.’ Many athletes expressed their concern about being placed in a position where they would have to choose whether they would “do their job as a professional athlete” or make a “morally correct decision.” 

In the past, the Olympics have been boycotted for various political reasons. In 1980, more than 60 countries boycotted the Summer Games in Moscow because of “the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year” (Britannica, 2021). Though, the effectiveness of boycotting the Games is still uncertain. The boycott of the Moscow Games did not appear to have a severe effect on Soviet foreign policy, and troops remained in Afghanistan until 1989. 

Whether athletes decide to participate or viewers at home decide to support their favorite athletes, only time will tell the actual effectiveness of boycotting such an event.