Protests Shadow Beijing Olympics

Zainab Rentia, Staff Writer

Fireworks fill the sky. Bright reds and yellows form breathtaking images. Stadiums are filled with people screaming in excitement, and laughter fills the arena. Loud music accompanied by thought-provoking and synchronized dancing catches everyone’s attention. Person after person files through, joy and pride on their face as they display their nation’s flag. Only, in this year’s opening ceremony, something is missing; what is usually the largest group of people is not there. 

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images.

Instead of over 200 energetic Americans wearing red, white and blue while the American National Anthem plays in the background, the parade moves on to the next country. In the arena, a whistle is blown, except American athletes never set foot on the ice. At the medal ceremony, the American flag is never raised, and the National Anthem never plays.

This is the reality Americans may be facing in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after calls for boycotts have been raised all across the country. Although the International Olympics Committee has tried to keep politics out of the arena, each game never fails to reflect the politics of its time. 

Critics are advocating to boycott because of China’s human rights abuses including the genocide of the country’s Uyghur population in addition to forcibly moving them to concentration camps, detaining journalists, assaults on activists and dissidents and demolition of churches, mosques and temples.

Sophomore Will Wo, an ice hockey player for Woodson, believes that “if all the evidence shows it’s true then yes [we should boycott]. America needs to express its disapproval and try to stop the genocide [of the Uyghur population]… don’t just appease them.”

A survey conducted in March by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found half of the Americans asked would choose to boycott, with equal support from both parties. This wouldn’t be the first time the US has not participated in the Olympics, previously boycotting the Moscow Olympics in 1980 due to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. 

“I do not think America and its allies should boycott the games because… the athletes have been preparing their whole lives and some expect to retire after they compete next year,” said Woodson junior Harkiran Singh who is a figure skater. “Also a boycott wouldn’t solve the human rights issue, it would probably make it even harder to solve it because this would escalate tensions.”

Singh further said that although she does not believe in a boycott, companies funding the games should speak out against the injustices so China will be pressured to change their policies instead of retaliating against a boycott.

However, the decision to boycott hasn’t been made yet. The government has been sending mixed messages, with the State Department spokesperson stating a boycott should be discussed while the White House Press Secretary said they will not be discussing it. Also, many government officials fear retaliation from the Chinese government as the American economy is closely tethered to Chinese investment and trade.  

There are also multiple types of boycotts the United States could pursue. The least drastic option would be a diplomatic ban where US representatives would not attend the games. The more forceful boycotts would be an athletic and economic boycott. In the athletic boycott, no American athletes would be allowed to participate. In the economic boycott, US spectators, broadcasters and sponsors would be banned from attending.