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Winter Olympics Begin in Beijing Amid Calls for Boycott

What is the controversy all about?

By:  |  February 4, 2022  |    691 Words
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2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

With people celebrating the start of the Year of the Tiger, the 24th Winter Olympic Games has begun in Beijing. The games will look a little different this year than they have in the past. Controversy about China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims have prompted several countries to boycott the competition.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted normal plans for the event. The Chinese government has taken steps to minimize the spread of Omicron, but the arrival of competitors, coaches, and other attendees has already increased positive cases. What plans are in place to manage Omicron, and how is the Chinese government responding to the accusations of forced labor and human rights violations?

The Winter Olympics

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Chloe Kim (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

More than 3,000 athletes signed up to take part in one or more of the 109 scheduled events in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which began February 4. There are 15 organized winter sports, including bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, short track speed skating, curling, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined.

Many will tune in to watch America’s reigning champion, Chloe Kim, compete in snowboarding. Kim took home a gold medal in the 2018 Olympic Games. She also holds the title of the first person to ever win three gold medals at the X Games before turning 16.

Nathan Chen, an American figure skater, is competing to receive his first-ever Olympic gold medal. He took home a bronze in 2018 and is one of the favorites to win gold this year.

What’s Going on in Xinjiang?

This year’s Olympics have been controversial due to accusations of human rights abuses going on in China, the host country.

In China’s Xinjiang region, the community of Uighur Muslims is allegedly forced to live in sub-par conditions and work as slaves.

GettyImages-1235643854 demonstration for Xinjiang

Demonstration in London for Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang (Photo by May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Some world leaders are unsettled with how the Chinese government treats its Muslim citizens and have decided to boycott the Beijing games in protest. The United States, Canada, Australia, Lithuania, and Kosovo have declared “diplomatic boycotts” of the event. Athletes from those countries are still competing, but ministers, officials, and other government representatives won’t make an appearance.

China warned athletes not to interfere with the spirit of the Olympics by speaking of human rights. China does not have any law protecting freedom of speech, so those who do not follow this rule could face criminal charges with the Chinese government and get in trouble with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “People can be charged with picking quarrels or provoking trouble. There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said.

Aiming for Zero COVID Cases

The Chinese government was optimistic that the COVID virus could be limited during the event, and several safeguards have been put in place. Unfortunately, however, many cases have already been reported as people arrived in Beijing.

The participants, media, and staff will be kept in what’s called a “closed-loop” or “bubble.” Basically, there is a closed-off loop where those people are permitted to travel. The people confined to the area will need to show a negative COVID test every day. Other precautions include testing before and after travel, and not allowing athletes who test positive for COVID to compete.

It is heart-breaking for the athletes who spend years preparing to then have to walk away. One contender commented on how it felt to be banned after testing positive for the virus: “Unfortunately, my Olympic dream will remain just a dream. Maybe one day I will find the strength to rise again but it will be a completely different story.”

While the 2022 Winter Olympics should be action-packed when it comes to sports, many feel a shadow has been cast over the event due to controversies surrounding the actions of the Chinese government.

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