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Historical Overview of the Olympics
The history of the Olympics traces back to ancient Greece, where it originated about 3000 years ago. The Olympic games were first held in the city Olympia, located in the western Peloponnese peninsula from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. In 393 A.D., the then emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, banned all “pagan” events that included the ancient Olympic tradition for nearly 12 centuries.
The former President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Baron Pierre de Coubertin, proposed and implemented creating the modern version of the Olympic games in a meeting in November 1892. Two years later, in 1894, he got the approval to found the IOC. The World witnessed the revival of the modern version of the Games during the 19th century in 1896 in Athens, where about 241 athletes from 14 nations participated in different competitions.
International games have become a victim of political stunts and manoeuvres. The same is the case with the Winter Olympics after Beijing was announced as the host for the 2022 edition. A flurry of diplomatic boycotts has been witnessed from countries including the US, Australia, and Britain. This time, the conjuncture of these diplomatic boycotts emerged following the genocidal crimes against the Uyghur community and other minority groups in Xinjiang as well as the repressive rule of law in Hong Kong.
The western world is trying to bet every card to pressure the Chinese authorities. Along with the western world, the human rights organizations have all gathered under the banner of the #NoBeijing2022 campaign. Apart from these groups, sponsors, major broadcasters, and especially the athletes were told to support the boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The allegations regarding the disappearance of the tennis player, Peng Shuai, after highlighting that one of the Chinese government officials harassed her have also provided an impetus to the crisis. Although China denies any of these allegations and asserts that this is one of the tactics by the West, this is not a new tactic as this has been done in various circumstances around the world centre stages.
In 1980, there was a similar instance where the US boycotted the Summer Olympics by Russia. One of the recently recorded boycotts is the Russian Football World Cup in 2018. Similarly, the apartheid regime in South Africa from the 1970s to 1980s witnessed a storm of sporting boycotts. However, apart from boycotting sporting events in the world, there is very little evidence where the boycotts have had any substantial political impact.
China successfully hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and Russia staging the 2014 Winter Olympic games and the 2018 Football World Cup amid the diplomatic boycotts are examples exhibiting merely diplomatic tactics to pressurize China and Russia. Insisting on boycotts and disengagement from sporting competitions will only fuel the crisis. Instead, the international community should engage in international sporting events that allow sporting diplomacy, which can undoubtedly bring about a positive change.
Preparing the Stage
Amid the international boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, China is all set to ignite the Olympic cauldron on 4th February 2022 to officially start Olympic Winter Games. The IOC’s choice for staging the competitions in Beijing is under severe scrutiny. Although IOC believes they hold a neutral ground while granting any country a chance to host the mega event, the pundits have harshly rebuked this theory.
The Human Rights Watch has recently accused the IOC of “collaboration” with the Chinese government. Still, these allegations did not trouble the IOC as they argued that the host country had a clean chit concerning human rights and its compatibility with Olympic values. On being asked about the alleged atrocities of the Chinese authorities, the IOC member Dick Pound said that he had no idea of these allegations despite the sufficient evidence available.
However, the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have already established diplomatic boycotts, asserting that they would not send their official representatives to the games. The boycotts have come only two months before the commencement of the games. Amid all the diplomatic boycotts, US athletes are still expected to participate in the event.
The flashpoint which was a concern for each of these states was the human rights violations that have been taking place in China. In response, Chinese authorities have very exclusively said that the diplomatic boycotts would result in “resolute countermeasures.” China voiced these boycotts from the Western nations as a tool used for “political manipulation” and said that these moves would bring about very severe consequences.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also pointed out that the countries boycotting the Olympics would not even be invited to the competition. He further added that the boycotts were nothing but a bluff and that various heads of the states, governments and royal members have come up to register themselves for the games. In short, China is not worried at all by any domino effect.
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