Should Beijing host the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Alex Hajkowski | staff columnist

Nov. 4, 2021

The Olympic Games are a one-of-a-kind event, instilling unique levels of excitement for athletes, countries and the people within them all throughout the world. The Olympics are one of the two most-popular sporting events in the world — rivaled only by the FIFA World Cup.

In the past 20 years, the Olympics have averaged over 3 billion viewers, and once, in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, reached 4.4 billion viewers. The Olympics are a truly special celebration of the past, present and future. 

On the Olympics website, you can see the organization’s official vision, which stresses “building a better world through sports.” It also highlights the values of “excellence,” “respect” and “friendship.” 

As we approach the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are set to take place in Beijing, China, we should ask whether it is acceptable for a country actively violating human rights and practicing imperialism to hold the Olympics. Especially with the values instilled in the Olympic tradition, can we really justify hosting the games in such a place?

Recently, there have been multiple protests against the 2022 Olympic Games, such as two weeks ago, when protesters in Greece held up banners with slogans like “No Genocide Games,” as China’s Olympic organizers received the Olympic flame. 

Notably for Americans, NBA player Enes Kanter has begun to protest the Olympics on and off the court. 

Kanter, a player for the Boston Celtics, originally from Turkey, began his protest on Oct. 20, when he posted a video to Instagram directly addressing Chinese Leader Xi Jinping and the government, telling them to “free Tibet.” 

Kanter talks about the oppression of the Tibetan people, how Tibetans have been tortured and even executed and shines light on how Tibetans have burned themselves alive, “hoping that such a horrific act of sacrifice will raise awareness and attention towards the ongoing abuses within Tibet.”

Kanter, in his past few games, has been wearing painted shoes as a protest against the Chinese government, as well as Nike. The shoes have displayed images of people burning or kneeling sullenly behind barbed wire. 

Written on the shoes are “Stop genocide, torture, rape, slave labor,” “Free Tibet” and “No Beijing.” Kanter has received positive feedback from fans and the media for his recent actions, but he is no stranger to political activism. Just two weeks ago, he received his tenth arrest warrant in the past four years from the Turkish government. 

These warrants are due to his continuous criticism of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allowing the torture of pisoners, not recognizing the Armenian genocide and other human rights violations. 

These are not your everyday protests, and the subject is not miniscule either. A 2020 China Human Rights Report from the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labors lists many examples of human rights violations under many topic areas. 

These include, to name only a few: unlawful and arbitrary killings by government, forced disappearances by government and the detention of over 3 million Uyghers to either extrajudicial internment camps and day-time only “re-education” training. 

Along with these violations, China continues with its imperialization of Tibet and Hong Kong, and oppression of the citizens there.

As an ordinary, American citizen, there is not one direct, substantial action to take that will fix these problems, but there are still ways to help. An effective and easy way to help is simply by 

raising awareness. 

In a society dealing with police brutality, a recent surge of anti-Asian hate crimes and many other domestic problems, it is easy for certain global atrocities to go unnoticed by the public, especially when the perpetrator is one of the most powerful countries in the world. 

Raising awareness is the first step in making a grand change, and anybody can do it. This can be done by reposting Kanter’s video, or simply talking about it with others. 

Another way to help is to support and vote for politicians who openly denounce the actions of China. A group of lawmakers including Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia have been working on adding a boycott measure against the Olympics to the defense budget bill, a bill that has passed every year for the last 60 years. 

Voting for and supporting lawmakers like these can end up causing a directly positive effect for the innocent lives being oppressed by Xi Jinping and the Chinese government.

Human rights violations are still a huge problem in society today, and it will take a global effort to help eliminate them. 

Read about it, inform yourself and, most importantly, talk about it. We should not take our freedom for granted, and we can use our freedom to help liberate others.

Even the smallest actions are still helpful, and never be afraid to call out injustice or cruelty in everyday life.