Written by Jyotsna Iyer, a second-year undergraduate student.
The 2022 Beijing Olympics have been deeply controversial and political despite the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) repetitive attempts to keep the games ‘neutral.’
Why is that?
This is because of the human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region, (involving an alleged genocide) the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s growing military coercion in Taiwan. This has resulted in boycotts of the games by numerous nations, with USA under the Biden administration influencing many in the direction.
However, given the importance of the Olympic games for sportspeople, many countries have resorted to a diplomatic boycott rather than a complete boycott. Diplomatic boycott refers to a stance taken by nations to refrain from sending any high-level political figures to the event, but sending a team to participate in it nevertheless.
Some countries even advised their sportspeople to carry burner phones to the games, fearing a breach of privacy. Some of the nations that have resorted to a diplomatic boycott include USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Lithuania and India.
India announced it diplomatic boycott at the eleventh hour, a day before the opening ceremony. Beside the human rights concerns and the pandemic, India’s move was also motivated by the fact that a PLA solider involved in Galwan valley clash was to be a flagbearer for China. The Galwan valley clash was an unprovoked attack by the Chinese border troops in the disputed border region after a de-escalation agreement, which cost the lives of 20 Indian soldiers in 2020. Of the nations that chose to remain silent on the controversy and attend the Beijing Olympics, many are said to have done so owing to their economic and political dependency on China.
Sporting competitions, especially the Olympics, have been considered as events that bind nations across the globe together with sportspersonship. However, despite the IOC’s regulations of keeping the Olympic games apolitical, it has been hard to keep political movements away from these events that have the entire world’s eyes fixed on them. In the Tokyo Olympics, athletes ‘took a knee’ to showcase their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, invoking global controversy. Though in entirely different scenarios, the amalgamation of politics and sports remains a common ground for the Tokyo summer Olympics and the Beijing winter Olympics.