Despite repeatedly insisting that other countries stay out of politics at the 2022 Winter Olympics, observers say host China is subtly using the quadrennial sporting event to promote its own political message.
For example, observers cite the selection of a wounded soldier against Indian troops as the Olympic torch bearer, and the appearance of members of the country’s beleaguered Uighur minority in the pre-Olympic cauldron lighting ceremony.
Analysts point to geopolitical shifts since Beijing first hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008. China’s ties to Western countries such as the United States were closer than they are now, while COVID-19 only emerged a decade later in China.
China’s control of Hong Kong, its sensitive relationship with Australia and Chinese military aircraft flying over Taiwan’s air zone also did not overshadow the situation then as it is today.
“Politics is unavoidably involved when athletes compete to carry their national flags,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “But because of China’s human rights record [yang bermasalah]aggressive foreign policy, and the COVID-19 pandemic, an atmosphere of distrust surrounds the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
Chinese officials reject the idea that the country has incorporated politics into the Olympics.
The Beijing Winter Olympics are “a grand gathering of global winter sports athletes and fans, not a platform for the political action of certain politicians,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in December. [my/pp]