mandag 31. januar 2022

Sport, politics and Covid collide at the Beijing Winter Olympics

Hosting the Winter Olympics during a pandemic was always going to test the Chinese government, by putting its ever-growing ability to exercise political control and virus containment on a collision course with its enthusiasm for international prestige and status. The 2022 Winter Games, which open on Friday, are being held at a time of particularly intense western criticism of China over human rights abuses, from the mass persecution of Uyghurs in far western Xinjiang – labelled a genocide by the United States – and other groups including Tibetans, to the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms.

China denies human rights abuses, but activists have dubbed the gathering in Beijing the “Genocide Games”, and western powers from the US to the UK have announced a diplomatic boycott of the opening ceremony. The exiled campaign group World Uyghur Congress urged: “No one should want another Olympics like this.”

There is so little trust of the host nation that many countries have told their athletes to take burner phones, and cyber security experts warned a health app for Olympians could spy on them and steal health and other personal data.