Apparently, the international Olympic movement is nearing its most serious trials since its reincarnation in the late 19th century, from 393 AD, when this religious-pagan act was prohibited by the Roman Christian emperor Theodosius 1 (“the Great”). This reincarnation itself, apparently, was considered by its initiators as one of the most important projects in the series of those that accompanied the evolution of European civilization over the past few centuries.
Initially tightly embedded in the concept of the “linear-progressive” nature of this process, the Olympic movement has been influenced by all the blows that real life inflicted on it. Of these, the hardest hitting would be the First World War. Everything that followed in the 20th century, especially the catastrophe of World War II, including the occasional Olympic Games, was nothing more than an illustration of the agony of a mortally wounded “progressive” myth.
Everything that accompanies the preparation process for the next summer and winter Olympic Games, which should be hosted by Japan and China, cannot be called anything other than the convulsions of the Olympic movement. It is impossible not to see an important symbolism in the fact that more and more clearly designated crisis phenomena in the Olympic movement are making themselves felt this time in Asia (more precisely, in the Indo-Pacific region), where the focus of modern global processes is shifting.
These processes, in turn, are plunging into a state of all-round crisis, with the problems in the process of preparing the next Olympic Games being only one of the elements of said crisis, albeit a very remarkable one. The crisis in world politics is already affecting the prospects for the winter Olympics scheduled for early 2022.
Let’s recall what exactly this is about. In 2015, at a regular meeting of the IOC, China was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Although by that time the contours of the main geopolitical confrontation of the first half of the 21st century had already been quite clearly identified with the main participants in the person of the United States and China, but until the end of 2019, the 2022 Winter Olympics was not among the objects of the unfolding struggle.
However, this “flaw” was, in the end, corrected at the final stage of the reign of the previous US administration. The situation in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was chosen as the reason for the inclusion of the 2022 Winter Olympics in the list of targets for Washington’s attacks on Beijing. At first, they were rather general in nature, but recently they have been reduced to a meme about alleged “coercion with the help of local authorities of the CPC to forced labor of Uyghurs on cotton plantations.”
Note, by the way, the Jesuit character of this meme, aimed at “intra-Western” consumption. It is intended to provoke associations with very real scenes of the recent past associated with the hard labor of American black slaves on cotton plantations.
Parrying crude propaganda, materials are published in China on the actual state of affairs with the cotton industry in the XUAR. In particular, there are photographs of cotton fields, on which, apart from the harvesters, no one is visible at all. These pictures are hardly different from those that, for example, the state of Mississippi can show today.
Almost certainly, the XUAR party functionaries hold explanatory conversations with those Uyghur combine operators who are careless about their work. But they hardly even get fired. It is highly likely that your average American farmer will do this with a mercenary, a malicious violator of the labor agreement, dealing with the problem quickly and effectively.
In connection with the latter, the author recalls the student practice at the factories of the USSR, when more than once he had to hear complaints from the lower level of the bosses and party workers about the impossibility of dismissing “this drunk dumbass” and the need to conduct educational work.
Be that as it may, but the current opponents of China are moving from (propaganda) words to deeds and, it should be repeated, 2022 Winter Olympics becomes one of the targets of attacks. In February this year, by citing the “genocide of the Uyghur”, a number of parliamentarians from the United States and Canada came up with an initiative on the need to boycott the next Winter Olympics. However, those around President Joe Biden then stated that there were no plans to ban American athletes from going to the upcoming Winter Olympics. On April 6, the US State Department denied rumors that there was allegedly a “discussion with allies” about a possible boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics.
It seems, however, that the indicated refute followed after the preliminary probing of this issue showed the extreme doubtfulness of the formation of any impressive number of significant countries ready to join such a boycott. India, which is acquiring extreme importance for the United States, will hardly go for it today. On the eve of the visit of Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the United States, an information leak appeared in the Japanese press, from which it followed that the Japanese leadership “did not expect” the topic of a possible boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics to appear during the upcoming talks.
This means that a very truncated version of the (already small in number) international political sect under the code name “democratic union” could take part in a potential boycott, which has been recently discussed in different versions, primarily in Great Britain and the United States. An attempt to boycott in such conditions the 2022 Winter Olympics would present the whole project of creating a “democratic union” in a deliberately losing form.
Let’s not forget that Japan, which is potentially included in it, is the host of the next Summer Olympics, which was supposed to take place last year, but was postponed to 2021 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is, because of a problem that initially had a seemingly narrow-specific (medical-virological) character, but found itself at the center of the modern stage of the Great World Game.
Let’s leave the discussion of the question of what was “in the beginning”: “virology” or “politics” for those who like to discuss the primacy of the chicken and the egg. The author only states the undoubted seriousness of the COVID-19 problem, against ignoring which two months earlier those same “virologists” warned the Japanese leadership. Which leadership, in turn, then faced a difficult choice: whether to continue (for an unclear period) quarantine restrictions and then almost definitely say goodbye to the 2021 Summer Olympics, or take the risk of ending the state of emergency and trying to hold the Games at least in some form.
The second option was chosen to answer this dilemma, and, as is almost always the case in such instances, Japan now has the prospect of receiving both “pleasures” at the same time. With the beginning of the next (fourth) wave of COVID-19 (with some new and dangerous strains), the incidence rate began to grow sharply. Which, in turn, more and more definitely lends the situation with the 2021 Summer Olympics the outlines of an insane asylum.
The growing level of rejection by the population of this event was manifested, in particular, in a sharp disagreement with the seemingly quite reasonable measure for the priority vaccination of visiting athletes. But the “rumors” about such plans had to be denied due to the delay (by about six months) in the mass vaccination of the Japanese themselves.
The consequences of a relatively minor event lead back to the fact that in November last year, at the zoo in Osaka (the second largest urban agglomeration in the country), a “local” polar bear gave birth to a cub. Since March 23, the happy mother with a cheerful cub began to be shown to visitors to the zoo, and touching photographs appeared on this topic in the media. Tired of the oppressive coronavirus atmosphere, people rushed to the zoo for at least something positive, which occasionally (as it should be) gives one a glimpse of real life.
Thus, creating a situation with mass gatherings of people, dangerous from the standpoint of the same old COVID-19. Therefore, after ten days, the bear and the cub were removed from sight. Reportedly, until May 5, when it is planned to end the state of emergency in Osaka. It is unclear why this will happen since the incidence rate keeps on growing steadily every day.
However, people will continue to be able to look at the subject of their joy – small, but so necessary today – in videos that the zoo’s management promises to regularly post on social media. The life of ordinary people increasingly moves online, which in no way contributes to the maintenance of his mental stability.
Add to this the fact that the problems of real life do not go anywhere. In particular, in the sphere of the Great World Game, in the center of which, it should be repeated, today there is a complex of relations between the two leading world powers, which exerts an increasing influence on all aspects of said game. Including the fate of the Olympic Movement.
So far, there is a general perception that US-China relations continue to degrade comprehensively. That is, the new US administration fails to stop this extremely negative and dangerous process (if such an intention was present at all). Let alone reverse it.
Although some comments (primarily Chinese) of the prospects for its further development sometimes express (rather cautious) optimism. For example, in connection with the outcome of the negotiations in Anchorage and the 50th anniversary of a specific period of bilateral relations dubbed “ping-pong diplomacy”.
One of the tests for the validity of such optimism will be the future fate of the Olympic Movement as a whole and, in particular, the format of its next “calendar” events.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.