Beijing successfully bid to host the Winter Olympics of 2022 back in 2015. Since then, a lot has changed. In recent years, the human rights violations currently taking place in China and the Uyghur genocide have begun to make national headlines, and the Uyghur Tribunal concluded recently that China is guilty of committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. As all of this has come to light, the Beijing Winter Olympics have been met with controversy and widespread concern.
This isn’t the first time that a country has hosted the Olympics while simultaneously being accused of genocide. Today, it is often called “Hitler’s Olympics” or the “Nazi Olympics”. In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power, the summer Olympics were held in Germany. Reports began to surface that the Nazi mistreatment of Jewish people had worsened substantially and the United States began to debate if they should attend the games. Jeremiah Mahoney, who was the president of the Amateur Athletic Union at the time, led the efforts to boycott the 1936 Olympics hosted by the Nazi regime. He did this because he believed that participating in the Olympics indicated endorsement of Hitler’s Reich and their horrendous actions. However, despite great efforts, the United States participated in the Olympics, with the exception of a few Jewish athletes who protested or were sidelined, reportedly, to not insult Adolf Hitler.
The Nazi regime utilized the Olympics for propaganda purposes, to convince the world that they were doing no wrong, and promote their antisemitic and racist ideals. Unfortunately, as we know, the Nazi regime would go on to commit mass genocide and kill roughly 11 million people.
Maybe, Jeremiah Mahoney was right, and Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime saw the participation of countries in the Olympics, despite the widespread dehumanization, mistreatment, and violence towards Jewish people in Germany, as a sign that countries endorsed his antisemitism, and no action would be taken against Germany as they committed mass genocide.
While it’s important to note that the Holocaust and the Uyghur genocide are not exactly the same, they also share similarities. You can read more about this at:
In early December the United States announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Meaning, the United States will not be sending any diplomatic officials to Beijing. The last time the United States boycotted the Olympics was in 1980 when the Summer Olympics were in Moscow and they were one of 66 other countries to do so. That boycott was in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and neither diplomats nor athletes attended the games.
This boycott is slightly different, as the athletes are still going to compete, there just won’t be any diplomats there. So, what’s the point of a boycott?
The hope of the boycott is two things 1) bring attention to the atrocities that are being committed in China currently, and 2) send a message that United States officials know what is happening in China and disapprove. China has continuously denied committing genocide and has spread propaganda internationally that Uyghur Muslims are not being kidnapped, tortured, and abused. When the boycott was announced, Chinese officials again denied committing acts or having any knowledge of genocide and stated that the United States was politicizing sports, and attempting to promote confrontation
Much like Hitler’s Olympics, the CCP has used the Olympics and plans to continue using the Olympics as a way to spread propaganda promoting their ideals and deny the mass violence that is currently occurring. Olympics also help to boost the economy of the country they are held in, which is vital to the CCP’s continuation of utilizing economic leverage to convince countries to either deny that they are committing genocide, or refuse to take action against them.
The diplomatic boycott is an important step by the United States to spread information to the public about the atrocities happening in China, and announce their disapproval of the Chinese government’s actions. Hopefully, this action will send the message that the United States government, and other countries that choose to boycott, are holding the Chinese Communist Party responsible for genocide, and will continue to do so in the future.
While it’s an important step, it’s one of many that need to be taken to stop the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in China. You can read more about the Uyghur Genocide and the steps that need to be taken to address this crisis on our website https://thepeaceproject.org/.