Australia To Consider 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Boycott

ABC News reported on 8 October that the Australian parliament was thought to be considering the issue of a boycott of the not-so-distant 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in light of the tensions between the two nations and China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Rex Patrick, representing South Australia, has voiced sentiment in a Facebook post that given the Uyghur genocide, “the crushing of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, the arbitrary detainment of Australian citizens in China on fictitious national security grounds,” along with zero tolerance against anti-CCP expression in China, a boycott was justifiable.

Australia did not support any of these actions, so “we should not have our athletes’ lending their good name and standing to the CCP,” he further stated.  However, a contrary position voiced by a former Olympian and current Member of Parliament, Zali Steggall, hinted that a national boycott would be unfair.  Steggall claimed that participating could bring more attention to injustices that were on-going, although she added that the International Olympic Committee needed to evaluate the appropriateness of the host’s actions in comparison to the principles and values of the games.

If Australia chose to keep its athletes away from China, as it is already strongly suggesting that its citizens do not enter China anyway (due to a policy of indefinite detainment if foreigners express anti-government sentiments while in or before coming to China), this would be a rare occurrence where Australia has boycotted their involvement in the Olympics in some way.

In 1980, Australian athletes could participate in the Soviet Union Summer games, though not under their national flag (unlike some nations who did not participate altogether).  However, this decision was contentious and lead to divisions, politically and in athletes’ personal lives, echoing concerns that it is not fair to take away this upcoming opportunity from athletes or to judge them for participating.

Clearly, there are issues to be worked out between Australia and China, along with the world’s concerns with how China has acted in the past, although this boycott proposal highlights how complicated foreign disputes can get for people outside positions of power.

Although people should be allowed to act in their best self-interests and so attend, it is hard to view China’s Winter Olympic meeting as purely about sports given the aforementioned international concerns with their conduct (ignoring the self-aggrandizing and commercialized nature that hosting the games has for a nation’s global prestige also).  However, as is the case of every country, it would be hard to argue that any nation that has, or will, host sporting events has not done something to disqualify them from doing so.

Thus, in light of the concerns that have been raised, and the global events that have destabilized regions of the world, it would seem the 2022 Winter Olympics are still up for debate and will probably need to be renegotiated if China wants full participation from around the world.  Although it is not certain what action Australia will take in the lead up to this international event, it should be stated that the International Olympic Committee should better select hosts who, in their own words, want a peaceful world through participation in sports and competitions, not segregation and destruction.