As the federal government continues to waffle over boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, Canadians should be adding their voices to the choir both here and abroad looking to hold the authoritarian regime to account for its numerous violations, not least of which are its human-rights abuses.
Failure to boycott the games would mean we’ve learned nothing from the ill-considered 2008 Olympic experience and the increasing militancy of China since that time.
In September, some 160 human-rights organizations asked the International Olympic Committee to move the Games from China due to its widespread human-rights abuses. Canadian officials have joined in that call, also citing Beijing’s strangulation of what remains of democracy in Hong Kong.
Outside of proper channels, there’s a contingency of those who would punish China for its part in propagating and failing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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Beyond the Olympics, there are calls for wider sanctions of China for its abuses, including intellectual property theft, aggressive militarism and interventionist policies.
While the time to firewall China would have been decades ago before the Walmartization of offshore production began in earnest, it’s not too late to give the country the pariah treatment, efforts of some to capitalize from the repressive regime notwithstanding.
We can expect a different take on China to be initiated by U.S. president-elect Joe Biden, and Canada will have to join in a more aggressive American-led policy to counter China’s militancy.
Such a strategy will be more encompassing, taking time to develop. In the meantime, boycotting the 2022 Olympics sends a worthwhile signal. Better still, the IOC should move the games, removing China from consideration until it becomes a better world citizen, perhaps as a democracy.
Allowing the Games to proceed in China as they did in 2008 begs a comparison to Berlin in 1936. Hosted by the Nazi regime, international participation in the Games was a de facto recognition of Hitler’s government, legitimizing it on the world stage.
The ill-advised decision to award the Games to China indicates the International Olympic Committee needs to change. While apologists for the Games prattle on about playing politics, their comments about sportsmanship and international harmony have a hollow ring. Politics and posturing have been a part of the Olympics in the modern era. In fact, they appear to be the raison d’être for the spectacle.
In an ideal world, the Games would be about fostering international cooperation, but only the most naïve among us would maintain the Olympics are not a purely political event, having long been associated with politicking.
Given that the Olympic ideals have long vanished, if they ever existed, perhaps it’s time to look at doing away with the Games altogether. At the very least, scandal after scandal has shown that sports involving judges must be removed. Only those with absolute winners – fastest, highest, longest – should be considered.
In the interest of removing the corrupt system of bribes, kickbacks and expense-account padding associated with choosing a site, if the Olympics are to continue they should do so from permanent locations, one each for the summer and winter flavours; no more junkets to determine which city will have the chance to raid the public purse and make a mess of its infrastructure in exchange for a few weeks of ego-boosting satisfaction for a handful of politicians and other hangers-on.
With so much money on the line, not to mention the status of those involved with the IOC and the various national committees, don’t look for changes any time soon. Instead, expect to hear nonstop platitudes about athletic competition and international glory.
More pressingly, however, the world has to something about China. Cancelling the Games is merely the opening salvo.