Apparently, the next Olympic Winter Games scheduled for February next year are becoming one of the new main justifications for, and the target of, an expanding information and propaganda war waged against the PRC.
This was the country that was selected in 2015 at the 128th IOC meeting, held in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, to host the Winter Olympics 2022. That in itself turned out to be another important piece of evidence for how the prestige enjoyed by the world’s second super power is increasing, and by that time it had come out onto the arena where global processes were playing out with an extremely attractive project: “Community of Shared Future for Mankind”.
At first glance, it seems that it should have suited everyone. But only at first glance, since the “aging hegemon”, as has happened more than once in history, perceived the very fact of the emergence of a new global power (and even with a project that was interesting for most) as a “challenge to vital interests”. The fight against the “excessively lively” contender for the top position in the world hierarchy should be a comprehensive one.
Along with the host of issues involved in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the situation in the PRC’s outlying regions plays a central role in its information and propaganda component. This mainly concerns Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
There are several things that should be noted here. Especially sensitive devotees of “human rights” problems may well have complaints about how Beijing has been resolving the pressing issues involved in the socioeconomic backwardness present in these regions. But it is impossible to deny either the scale of the efforts made by the central government in this area or the positive results that it has achieved. But the main thing still for this current “human rights” issue boils down to the well-known meme “the pot calling the kettle black”.
In regard to the topic discussed here, it is worth noting that although speculation by the Western media about the situation in Tibet occupies an important place in the propaganda war against the PRC, aspects of the “persecution and genocide” of the Uyghurs are increasingly moving into the limelight.
In November 2019, the New York Times reported that it allegedly had in its possession government documents from the PRC (“over 400 pages”) concerning the situation in the XUAR. Publishing the content of these “pages” became the starting point for the idea of a possible Winter Olympics 2022 boycott. From that time, the propaganda campaign started to gradually gain momentum, and now, with only a year left before the opening of the next Winter Olympics, it has turned into a blatantly coordinated attack on the host country.
The “invisible orchestrator” of this and similar public actions is using certain “civic activists” and lawmakers in Western countries so that their governments will take a certain position on the issue of boycotting Winter Olympics 2022. In early February this year, a similar initiative was put forth by several members of the US Senate. It is noteworthy that President Joe Biden has announced that so far he has no plans to prohibit American athletes from going to the Olympics in China.
On February 23, the House of Commons of Canada passed a “non-binding” resolution, that uses the term “genocide” to define situation with the Uighurs in XUAR. This resolution preceded the vote on the issue of contacting the IOC with a proposal to deprive the PRC of the right to host Winter Olympics 2022.
On the next day, during a scheduled press conference, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official strongly condemned this action by the Canadian parliament aimed at “politicizing sports”. Figures were presented showing a noticeable increase in recent years both in the number of Uighurs inhabiting the XUAR and the increase in their level of prosperity. It was denied that there had been any infringements upon the Uighurs’ linguistic, cultural, or religious lives.
Meanwhile, the whole range of problems caused by the current state of world politics and the coronavirus pandemic has already affected the most recent Summer Olympics, which did not take place in Japan. Previously, NEO looked at the quite tangible consequences of the impact of certain “specifics” in the relevant policy on the composition of the leadership in charge of preparing and holding the Summer Olympics in Japan. It is worth remembering how these “specifics” forced Yoshiro Mori, the former president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, to resign.
The SARS-CoV-2 factor is not going anywhere either. Its hefty influence will persist even if the issue of ending the state of emergency is resolved in a way that is extremely favorable for the Olympics. First, epidemiologists are wary of this, warning about the dangers that could stem from a premature suspension of the state of emergency. Second, even if the next “wave” of the epidemic does not come, the restrictions on people’s freedom to behave as they wish, including those directly participating in the Olympics, will remain.
The question about whether to admit foreign tourists to it, which is extremely important for the financial aspect of the entire event, is still unclear. President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach promises to respond to that “no earlier than April-May”. The host of issues involved with vaccinating the participants in the Olympics and, above all, the traditional relay race, which is supposed to be run in the near future, are at the stage of discussions.
Surely one should expect other unexpected (and seemingly idiotic) questions to arise that will still have to be answered. These are cropping up primarily for contact sports. For example, will boxers now ruin each other’s faces that have to be covered up with “anti-coronavirus” masks or not?
Be that as it may, but Yoshiro Mori was lucky, and now this whole madhouse has fallen on the “gender correct” Seiko Hashimoto, a famous athlete in the past, and on the no less “correct” Tamayo Marukawa, the Olympics minister. Incidentally, there is a strange tendency to shift the solution to complex (and foolish) problems onto the gentle gender’s shoulders.
In the final analysis, it seems appropriate to express the author’s (that is, exclusively personal) opinion regarding both the current stage for the Olympic movement and its integral element, which is now professional sports. Various aspects of both these phenomena have long been the subject of debate. These kinds of discussions are of particular relevance under current crisis conditions due to how closely intertwined the factors are in the exacerbated political situation and the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. For any country, this inevitably brings to the forefront the issues of the most preferable ways to define the objectives for its activities, and how to optimally distribute available resources.
Since its “revival” at the end of the 19th century, the Olympic Games movement has undergone radical changes, during which it has long been integrated into global political processes. At the same time, each of its subsequent large-scale actions turns into an arena for settling political scores. Nowadays, the slogan “O Sport, You Are Peace!” that appeared at the time of this “revival” unfortunately, sounds like a bad joke against the backdrop of everything that happens during the preparation and holding of the Olympics, as well as in the world as a whole. Under these conditions, in some countries the question of whether it is advisable to further participate in the current Olympic movement at the country level is one that crops up involuntarily.
A slew of issues can be considered to be concomitant ones, in particular, those related to professional sports as an area of government-sponsored activity. Nobody should be prohibited from playing sports professionally. But government support for this kind of activity (which includes various branches of artistic culture) should not be systematic, but rather provided in exceptional cases. For example, in the form of government scholarships that are awarded on a competitive basis.
First of all, everything that contributes to the health of a country’s population should be given support. Both physical and moral support. And professional sports have nothing to do with this objective. They can be more aptly attributed to especially dangerous, harmful, and risky activities. Ones that are close, for example, to the work done by miners.
Getting back to the main topic, it is worth reiterating that this very same global policy has had quite a significant effect on forming the external backdrop for the process of preparing for Winter Olympics 2022 in China. But, of course, this is occurring in its own way, and not the way it is now being observed in connection with the Summer Olympics in Japan.
On top of that, there are no guarantees that this same SARS-CoV-2 factor will disappear from the process of forming the abovementioned background a year from now. Not to mention the fact that some completely terrible “coronavirus strains” – and completely new global sore spots – are emerging now.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.