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Beijing 2022

EDITORIAL | Why is the IOC Silent on Beijing's Blatant Politicization of the Winter Games?

They have become Xi Jinping’s showcase for thumbing his nose at Western critics, from athlete rights and human rights to international doping rules and the truth of COVID’s origins.



In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Yao Dawei/Xinhua via AP, File)

It is obvious to one and all that China’s Communist rulers are exploiting the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing for political purposes. 

This was readily apparent in the choice of 20-year-old female skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a member of the Uyghur ethnic minority, to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony for the Games on February 4, along with a male ethnic Han majority athlete. 

Chinese Olympians Dinigeer Yilamujian, an ethnic Uyghur (left) and Zhao Jiawen lighting the Olympic cauldron. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

This was no coincidence, since diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and several other countries are boycotting these Games to protest the suppression of human rights in the Uyghur heartland. Although the Chinese authorities no doubt sought to portray the lighting ceremony as evidence of the ethnic harmony in China, it came across as a provocative charade. 

After Dinigeer placed 43rd in a cross-country ski event the following day, she failed to appear before the press. However, the next day the government wire press agency Xinhua reported a comment she was said to have made about lighting the Olympic cauldron, “That moment will encourage me every day for the rest of my life.” Of course, she did not comment on human rights issues. 

When asked whether the choice of a Uyghur torchbearer for the last leg of the sacred flame relay was intended as a symbolic message, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “The so-called ‘genocide’ is the biggest lie of the century.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Opening Ceremony. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to use the Olympics for diplomatic purposes by inviting the heads of several authoritarian governments, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to attend the Opening Ceremony. Since Russia is after all still under sanctions for state-sponsored doping offenses, Putin should not have been able to attend. 

Russian athletes are participating as members of the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) team, and the Russian flag and national anthem were banned. 

Putin was granted a special exemption to attend since he was personally invited by the leader of the nation hosting the Games, but Xi’s invitation clearly runs counter to the spirit of anti-doping rules. Nevertheless, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach evidenced no desire to look into the incident. 

IOC President Thomas Bach talks with China's Peng Shuai during an event on February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The same Bach then met personally with tennis star Peng Shuai inside the “Olympic bubble.” Peng’s explosive charge of being forced to have sex with a former vice-premier of China has caused concern for her welfare, but Bach has repeatedly emphasized that she was “safe.” 

His assurances lack weight, considering that Peng is under the control of the Chinese authorities and therefore unable to speak freely. In effect, Bach is simply acting as a mouthpiece for Chinese propaganda.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also met with Xi in Beijing, and expressed high hopes that an upcoming fact-finding visit to the Uyghur area in Xinjiang Province by Michelle Bachelet Jeria, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will yield “credible” results. Nonetheless, the Chinese Foreign Ministry emphasized that the purpose of Bachelet’s trip is merely “to promote exchanges and cooperation.” 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from Ethiopia

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing. According to the Chinese side, Tedros said the WHO opposes the politicization of investigations into the origins of COVID-19. 

These Winter Olympics have been plagued with one problem after the next, including questionable “disqualifications” of foreign competitors in ski jumping and speed skating short track events. But they have not slowed down the steady churning out of Chinese political propaganda. 

There were warnings before the start of these Games that the Beijing Winter Olympics would be abnormal. And those warnings have certainly come true.

(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun 

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