The 24th Winter Olympics kicks off this week in Beijing, making the Chinese capital city the first to host winter and summer Olympics, as the city was home to the 2008 games. This isn’t the only way these Olympics are making history however, as the games have been politicized in ways we haven’t seen since the 20th century. In fact, there were so many reservations about the games being held in China, the country barely beat out Kazakhstan in the bidding for the games by just four votes.

These Olympic Games will be one of the most controversial of all time, and it could have all been avoided if China wasn’t awarded hosting rights in the first place.

China has become one of the world’s most powerful countries in the last several decades, boasting one of the strongest economies in the world. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a free country, as China is a one-party authoritarian state. China has a record of human rights violations, and the country has committed atrocities toward ethnic groups such as the mostly Muslim Uyghur people and Tibetans. The Chinese government has persecuted human rights activists, feminists, lawyers and journalists. The state controls all media and has great power when it comes to censorship. The government has been able to rewrite some of its biggest atrocities in the country’s history books, one of the most famous being the Tiananmen Square massacre, a deadly attack on student protesters by the Chinese military. The state has been so successful in censoring this massacre that most teens in China have no idea it happened.

Controversies like these plagued the 2008 games, and many were disappointed the International Olympic Committee would let China host another Olympics. Several activists called for the committee to move the games from Beijing or to cancel them altogether. Despite all the protests and controversies, the games will go on in Beijing. However, this doesn’t mean all is well. Ten countries have confirmed diplomatic boycotts of the games, including the United States. These boycotts only affect government officials, as they cannot attend the games in an official capacity.

Many top officials within the U.S. government, including lawmakers, have protested the Beijing Games for years now. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the diplomatic boycott Dec. 6, citing the mistreatment of the Uyghur people as the main reason for the move. The government stopped short of a full boycott, stating “it would not be fair to punish athletes who have trained for years.”

However, many speculate the decision not to boycott could be because doing so could lead to the most severe punishment by the international committee: a two-year suspension from the Olympic games altogether.

The Chinese government is fully aware of all the controversy surrounding the games and has not been a tad bit understanding. Government officials already have stated that protests from Olympic athletes would not go unpunished. Yang Shu, the deputy director of Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee, stated in a recent call that “any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”

This has many worried for the safety of international athletes at the games. According to the New York Times, nations from the U.S. to Germany have warned their athletes not to bring up sensitive topics and to opt for temporary phones throughout their stay in Beijing. This is also due to the fact all athletes will be required to download a Chinese app onto their phones that will monitor their health and movements; experts claim this app would put the personal information of athletes at risk.

As someone who has a deep love for sports, seeing all of this unfold is incredibly frustrating. I don’t believe China should have gotten the chance to host these games at all, as that government’s values don’t represent the values of the Olympics. The Olympics are all about people coming together to compete for glory in a fun and noble way, but China turned this sacred event into something scary and potentially dangerous. The Olympics were created to showcase the best of the world, but having them in China is just glorifying the worst of society. I truly hope the international athletes at these games are safely able to send the message of peace and show the world why love and freedom will always prevail.

Ian Hernandez-Rojas is a student at The MASTERS Program. Contact him at ianhernandezrocks@gmail.com.

Popular in the Community