American athletes who could end up in Beijing at the 2022 Winter Olympics in February will undoubtedly feel the pressure of the competition. They will have help to deal with it.
The United States Olympic Committee has said therapists and mental health workers will be available to athletes in Beijing, according to a Washington Post report. These will consist of crisis lines, online mental health discussions and group therapy sessions.
They should need everything. They will participate in what human rights activists have called China’s “genocide games” – the horrific treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region and the crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.
The Chinese government – the one that organizes the games – has placed more than a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in prisons and detention centers.
At a press conference in Athens in October, Uyghur officials revealed that their Beijing brethren do not enjoy the luxury of hotlines, online mental health chats and therapy sessions. group.
“If this press conference were to take place in China, I, as an Uyghur, would end up in a camp and possibly be subjected to sexual abuse and torture, as are millions of my fellow Uyghurs,” said Zumretay Arkin, Program and Advocacy. responsible for the Uyghur World Congress.
“The Olympic Games are handed over to a country actively committing genocide. “
You could argue that’s not debatable – certainly not in China, where the debate means you end up in jail or worse.
United Nations human rights experts have said at least 1 million Muslims have been detained since 2017.
Chinese authorities call camps and detention centers vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
So how can the rest of the world Beijing and willfully unfold in something as insignificant as the “games” when this suppression of freedom blatantly exists? How can the rest of the world give validation to the oppressive Chinese government by participating in an event that will give it a chance to bask in the glory of its persecution of over a million people with no price to pay?
International Olympic President Thomas Bach said the Games should be “respected as a politically neutral ground”.
You shouldn’t expect much from the IOC, which at times looked like a criminal enterprise.
US officials are reluctant to support a total boycott of the Games, which would be a repudiation of China’s suppression of human rights and a major embarrassment for the oppressors. However, reports indicate that US officials are considering a “diplomatic” boycott of the Winter Games, which means President Biden and other government officials will not attend – essentially declining an invitation to a party. But the party will continue.
Sponsors of the Olympics – especially those doing business in China with untold riches at stake – have shown no desire to withdraw from the Games, despite calls from human rights activists.
Paul Lalli, Coca-Cola’s global vice president for human rights, told The Guardian last month: “We don’t make decisions about these hosting sites. We support and follow athletes wherever they compete.
And this is where the shoe pinches: there is no Olympic Games without athletes.
In their quest for sanity, crisis lines and group therapy sessions, will these American athletes be asked questions about the guilt they might feel about competing for their snowboard medals? or ice dancing when there are people in the host country who can? t enjoy their performances – unless they televise them in their prison camps?
My question is: why do the athletes themselves never wonder how they can compete when there is such brutality and freedoms are ignored?
This can be unfair because no one else up the food chain is willing to have the strength to make the sacrifice for the greater good. After all, you could argue that it was the athletes who sacrificed the most – years of their young lives, committed to the goal of winning an Olympic gold medal.
It is their dream. I understand. But it will happen in the shadow of more than a million people suffering from the nightmare of freedom denied by a rogue government – who will watch these athletes march in a parade that celebrates the host country as much as anyone.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian recently called the Olympics a “stage” for athletes around the world. Zhao said, “These are the real protagonists. Politicizing sport is contrary to the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes of all countries.
The power, then, to make China pay the price for its human rights violations really rests with the athletes themselves.
There is something called the IOC Athletes’ Commission, which I suppose could have a voice in uniting the athletes to make this sacrifice in protest against the human rights violations committed by their Olympic hosts.
I wouldn’t expect much.
Commission chairwoman Emma Terho was part of the orchestrated closed-door video presentation last week with missing tennis star Peng Shuai, who accused a former Communist Party leader of sexual assault. Terho was part of a statement issued by the IOC which claimed that Peng was “safe and healthy” but that she “would like her privacy to be respected at this time.”
The statement and the video were dismissed by officials of the Women’s Tennis Association, who released a statement on Saturday that the WTA “remains concerned about his (Shuai) ability to communicate freely, openly and directly.”
US figure skater Evan Bates told USA Today in October that “the human rights violations are appalling. And we all believe it’s really… it tears the fabric of humanity apart. But I think that boycotting the Games would not be taking the opportunity to shed light on this subject.
How did it work in 2008, when the Beijing Summer Games were supposed to bring the Chinese government closer to a nation that recognizes basic human rights?
Listen to Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.