Scott Stinson: Beijing Olympics are kicking off the Year of Sportswashing

Boycott talk is big with Beijing 2022. Human\u002Drights groups allege war crimes in China amount to ethnic cleansing against Muslim Uyghurs

[\U0027metadata Project Type : Newsroom Daily\U0027, \U0027nlp Entity Tokens : Olympics

2022-01-29 8:30:00 AM

Scott Stinson: One could be forgiven for assuming that the only reason Beijing is about to host the Winter Olympics is bribery. But, no. The case for the Beijing Olympics was much simpler: there was no one else to host it.

Boycott talk is big with Beijing 2022. Human\u002Drights groups allege war crimes in China amount to ethnic cleansing against Muslim Uyghurs

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.FIFA’s decision to award its jewel to Qatar has been under heavy criticism since the moment it was made. Aside from the weather and general concerns over its human-rights record, Qatar’s use of a largely immigrant labour force to construct its World Cup stadiums has been a particular flashpoint. Critics have likened the arrangement to slave labour and reports have suggested that the number of workers to have died during stadium construction is in the thousands. In response, Qatar made significant labour reforms and while some countries, notably Denmark and Norway, talked about a possible World Cup boycott, the tournament has never been close to being relocated.

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Both things are true. The iocmedia have been taking Beijing’s bribes for years and no other country wanted the nonsense.

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China agrees to Xinjiang visit by UN rights chief in early 2022 China agrees to allow UN rights chief to visit Xinjiang after Beijing Games Find someone more principled than her. They’ve already visited and found nothing of note. They'll have a lovely presentation for her like the Nazis had for the International Red Cross in Terezin in 1944.

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Qatar World Cup are very much of a piece in a different way, though. This is the Year of Sportswashing — a term that will get a lot of use in the coming months, which denotes the use of a feel-good event like a sports competition to burnish the public-relations reputation of an entity that has some challenges in that regard. First put in use when oil-rich nations with questionable human-rights records started buying famous soccer clubs like Paris Saint-Germain (Qatar) and Manchester City (United Arab Emirates), the idea of sportswashing has grown to include golf and tennis tournaments, Formula 1 races, and even wrestling events. Western-based organizations that would never do business in a U.S. state or Canadian province that, for example, made homosexuality a criminal offence, instead go to a Gulf state, make a vague statement about diversity and then accept giant piles of oil money. The practice has now been extended to the two biggest sporting events on the planet. The concerns with the host nations of China and Qatar are long and varied, and while the IOC and FIFA would have taken a do-over on the decisions had such a thing been possible, there will instead be a lot of nose-holding going on as the rest of the world descends on the countries in 2022 and tries to pretend that its presence at these global parties isn’t in some way a tacit endorsement of the people throwing the bash. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Article content All of which raises an uncomfortable question, particularly for the countries in the West that place a lot of value on fundamental freedoms and human rights: Where is the tipping point? And if the rest of the world wasn’t ready to pull out of China or Qatar, is the answer that there isn’t a tipping point? FIFA’s decision to award its jewel to Qatar has been under heavy criticism since the moment it was made. Aside from the weather and general concerns over its human-rights record, Qatar’s use of a largely immigrant labour force to construct its World Cup stadiums has been a particular flashpoint. Critics have likened the arrangement to slave labour and reports have suggested that the number of workers to have died during stadium construction is in the thousands. In response, Qatar made significant labour reforms and while some countries, notably Denmark and Norway, talked about a possible World Cup boycott, the tournament has never been close to being relocated. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Article content Workers in PPE stand next to the Olympic rings inside the closed loop area near the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, in Beijing, China. Photo by THOMAS PETER / Reuters Boycott talk has been more prominent with Beijing 2022. Human-rights groups allege that war crimes in a conflict in China’s northwest amount to ethnic cleansing against the minority Muslim Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region. But the government of China and its ruling Communist Party has a litany of other complaints against it, from a crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong to the lengthy imprisonment of two Canadian businessmen in retaliation for Ottawa’s role in the extradition of a Chinese telecom executive to the recent mystery surrounding Peng Shuai , a Chinese tennis player who accused a former top Communist official of sexual misconduct before disappearing from the public eye. She has since been seen in orchestrated public appearances, but the Women’s Tennis Association continues to say it is concerned for her safety and vows not to hold events in China until it can confirm that her freedom has not been compromised. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Article content Where is the tipping point? And if the rest of the world wasn’t ready to pull out of China or Qatar, is the answer that there isn’t a tipping point? The combination of all these things, beginning with broad concerns about Xinjiang but extending to other controversies, has resulted in calls for the kind of Olympic boycott that hasn’t been seen since the height of the Cold War, when the West stayed away from Moscow 1980 and the Soviet Bloc followed suit at Los Angeles 1984. Instead, many Western countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, will refrain from sending government officials to Beijing 2022 while still allowing athletic delegations to compete there. The diplomatic boycott, as it has been called, offers a mild rebuke to the government of President Xi Jinping while not forcing athletes to miss an event that only happens every four years, but its impact will be negligible. There will still be an Opening Ceremony where the country’s leaders will be given the full blessing of the IOC, allowing them to bask in the reflected glory of the athletes who will chase medals for the ensuing weeks. Media coverage will show off dazzling venues, in Beijing and two other clusters up in the mountains, and as an added bonus for the CCP, will keep visiting journalists to a “closed loop” that includes only Olympic sites, transportation and hotels. China was never going to invite press scrutiny, but now it won’t even have to work that hard to avoid it. As sportswashing exercises go, it’s pretty much the dream scenario. Postmedia News Share this article in your social network Share this Story: