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Have We Seen the Last of the Olympic Games -- Are the 2022 Olympics in China Possible in Today's Geopolitical Climate?

(AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

A not too well-kept secret right now is that the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which were set for Tokyo last summer but postponed until 2021 due to COVID 19, are unlikely to take place as planned.  The current situation seems to be that, with the Winter Olympics set for February 2022, and the next Summer Olympics set for July 2024 in Paris, postponing the Tokyo Games to the summer of 2022 simply isn’t possible.

That means the next scheduled Olympic contest is the 2022 Winter Olympics — scheduled for February 4, 2022, in Bejing, China.

Given the current geopolitical climate following the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the spread of the pandemic throughout the world, Chinese genocide committed against the ethnic Uyghur minority, Chinese moves in Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and with Taiwan, is it possible to project forward one year and confirm that the international community will gather in Bejing to compete?

For those who might be considering the option of not doing so, the Chinese Communist Party sent a little message a few days ago as reported in the South China Morning Post:

China will respond to Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic boycotts with serious sanctions towards any countries that pull out, according to the editor-in-chief of the state-backed nationalist tabloid Global Times.
“Boycotting 2022 Beijing Winter Games, an unpopular idea, won’t receive wide support,” Hu Xijin wrote on Twitter on Sunday.“IOC and athletes will both oppose it, and China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call.”
Nothing says “Welcome To the Games of the XXIV Winter Olympic Games” quite like “Don’t show up and we’ll sanction you.”
Don’t lose track of the fact that China has lent billions of dollars to countries all around the world for infrastructure improvements under the “Road & Belt Initiative.”
Today’s news is that China has banned the BBC.
The South China Morning Post article notes that MPs from both Britain and Canada, as well as Republican Senators in the US, have already begun to urge consideration of a boycott of the China Winter Olympics, with the Uyghur issue being the most often cited justification.
In addition, a coalition of 180 activist groups called for a boycott ahead of the one-year countdown in an open letter published last Wednesday.
China first hosted an Olympic Games in the summer of 2008, also in Bejing.
There are concerns being expressed in several Western countries that participating in the 2022 Summer Games will be tantamount to assent to Chinese authoritarianism within its borders and signal international acceptance of such practices to other oppressive regimes around the world.
On February 3, the Biden Administration commented that it had no plans to prevent Olympic teams and athletes from participating in the China Games.

“We’re not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing on Wednesday.

“We consult, of course, closely with allies and partners at all levels to define our common concerns and establish a shared approach, but there is no discussion underway of a change in our plans from the United States at this point in time,” she said.

The likely cancellation of the Tokyo games impacts Olympic corporate sponsors who have spent a lot of money associating themselves with teams and athletes who won’t now be showcased on a world stage.  Repeating that with the China Winter Olympic games by way of a boycott would only make the situation worse for those sponsors.  Most refused to make any comment on the growing movement.

Reuters sought comment from 15 global Olympic corporate sponsors.

Airbnb, Alibaba, Atos, Bridgestone, Dow, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota and Visa did not respond to requests for comment. General Electric said its contract is ending after the Tokyo Summer Games set for this year after being postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Intel declined to comment. Omega, Coca-Cola and Allianz reiterated their commitment to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

As noted at the top, the Summer Olympics of 2024 is set for France.  If there is a boycott of the China Winter Games over geopolitical tensions like the Uyghur issue or Chinese aggression towards its neighbors, it is a near certainty that China would respond in kind — maybe even stage an alternative set of Summer Games and lean heavy on countries over whom is has great financial leverage to come to China and skip the Games in Paris.

If that situation comes to pass, the possibility becomes quite real that the Olympics as we have known them for over 100 years will not continue in their present form.