Time.news – The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be marked by a “soft” boycott of the United States, which affects diplomatic personnel and not athletes, in reaction to the human rights violations committed by China against the Uyghur ethnic group.
Other countries could also join the move, which are evaluating their respective positions on the Winter Games next February: the British Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, said that Britain will decide “in due course”.
Uncertainty also on the part of Canada: after the US announcement, the Minister of Sport, Pascale St-Onge, declared that Ottawa will not take the decision “lightly”. The Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, instead stressed that Japan will decide “on the basis of national interests”.
To take sides against the US is Russia: the Kremlin criticized the choice of the diplomatic boycott, saying that the Olympic Games must be “free from politics”, although he believes it is positive that the decision does not concern the participation of athletes.
The US diplomatic boycott is a “soft” weapon used by Washington, especially compared to the “hard” boycotts of the past, when six times in the history of the modern Olympics some countries decided not to participate in athletic competitions.
The best-known case is that of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, boycotted primarily by the USA and by a total of 65 nations (including Canada, Israel, Japan, China and West Germany) in protest for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979; the USSR triumphed in the medal table, with a still unbeaten record of 195 medals won (of which 80 gold). Moscow retaliated four years later with a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
In total 14 Soviet bloc nations (including East Germany) they did not participate in the sporting event in response to the “chauvinistic sentiments and anti-Soviet hysteria” of the United States. The impact was, however, limited: the Los Angeles Games saw the presence of athletes from 140 countries – including China, for the first time at an Olympic event since 1952 – and were a success in terms of economic returns, while the United States triumphed with 83 golds.
China itself has implemented this form of protest in the past: at the basis of the decision not to send athletes was the question of Taiwan, the island on which the People’s Republic claims sovereignty and today is again at the center of tensions with the United States. Beijing did not send its athletes to the Melbourne edition of 1956, in protest for Taiwan’s permission to participate in the Games as a country in itself (Taiwan would in turn refuse to participate in the 1976 Montreal Olympics for the Canada’s refusal to have the island compete under the name of the Republic of China).
The 1956 Games were the first to address the boycott issue: Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland did not send athletes in protest over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary, which took place only a few weeks earlier, while Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon did not participate in the Suez Canal crisis against Israel, France and Great Britain.
Furthermore, from 1964 to 1992 South Africa’s participation in the Olympics was banned for apartheid policy. The Olympic Games were also affected by the friction between the two Koreas: North Korea refused to participate in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games for not having received permission to organize the Games with South Korea. Despite the boycott, 159 countries and eight thousand they participated in the sporting event.
The Korean issue has recently returned to the fore. In the wake of the thaw that preceded the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the two Koreas also made an offer to jointly host the 2032 Olympics: in July, however, the International Olympic Committee awarded Brisbane, Australia , the Games of the 35th modern Olympiad.
While it is not a complete boycott, Beijing has not welcomed Washington’s announcement, which it calls a “farce” and a “politicization of sport”. China has promised countermeasures to the US decision which, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said without going into detail, “will pay a price for their bad practices.”
Among the possible repercussions hypothesized there is that of a similar retaliation by Beijing at the next Olympic eventsthe. When asked about the possibility of a diplomatic counter-boycott of China at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics and the possible Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2030, for which the US is working, the spokesperson did not give a direct answer. but he stressed that “the illegal actions of the United States have destroyed the foundations of sports exchanges between China and the United States and of Olympic cooperation”.