Through the years, there have been several boycotts of the Olympic Games by nation states for political reasons. Most notably, The United States refused to send a team to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Sixty-five other nations joined the USA in that boycott. Ostensibly in retaliation, the Soviet Union along with Soviet Bloc nations and a handful of nations within the Soviet sphere of influence boycotted the very next Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. The politicization of the Olympics is truly a shame as athletes who have put in countless years of training, many of whom having a short window to excel at the world class level, were left at home never again able to fulfill their athletic dreams.
This February the Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China and already several nations including the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Chinese games. Athletic delegations will still be sent so as not to deprive these young men and women of achieving their aforementioned sports dreams. Instead, the typical governmental delegations representing many of the world’s nations will stay home in protest. Is it merited? Certainly. The Chi-Coms are simply awful. Human rights abuses if not outright genocide have taken place in their Xinjiang region against Uyghurs and other Muslims. Brutal crackdowns against pro-democracy elements in Hong Kong are well documented. Most recently Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai simply evaporated from public view following her accusation of sexual assault against a top Chinese official. And let’s not forget where this damned Covid pandemic began under fairly dubious circumstances. The Chinese deserve, at the very least, a diplomatic boycott.
For me, making the call to tune out the Winter Olympics will be an easy one as I have come to hold the quadrennial spectacle on snow and ice in low regard anyway. Pardon the shift to low brow tongue-and-cheek, but many of the events are redundant or really have no place in the Olympic Games to begin with.
- Curling: Nothing more than shuffleboard on ice. The Olympic motto is Higher, Faster, Stronger. What part of Higher Faster, Stronger is curling? I imagine the preparation regimen for this “sport” involves at least 3 Molsons or LaBatts at each intense training session.
- 4–person Bobsled: There is already a 2-person event on the very same course. In the 4-person variety, what exactly do participants 2 and 3 accomplish except push for 3 seconds and then hop in for a no doubt thrilling ride?
- 2–man luge: As with the bobsled above, there is already a solo luge event on the very same course, so why the double up? And pardon the sexist/homophobic assessment here, but while the 2-women luge event is mildly titillating, the 2-man luge is just kinda icky.
- Ski Jumping: There is both a 70 meter hill and a 90 meter hill. Let’s pick a hill and stick with it, shall we?
- Nordic Combined: This is two events in one where the competitors first do ski jumping and the next day compete in cross country skiing. There are already separate events for each discipline so why is there a need to combine them other than to gin up the medal count for the Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians?
- Biathlon: Another combo event, but this time shooting and cross county skiing. Athletes ski around the course and then make stops, remove the rifle they’ve been carrying on their back, and then shoot at targets. Extra skiing penalties are assessed for each target missed. But why combine these particular events? If shooting needs to be incorporated into the Winter Games, let’s make it really interesting. Ice hockey can be a fairly violent sport. How ‘bout we strap rifles to the goalies’ backs and see what happens? Better still, let’s have those figure skaters take some shots at the targets after they finish their routines with one of those dizzying spins?
- Short Track Speed Skating: Same as speed skating but on a tight oval track and EVERYBODY is skating at once. Absolute chaos, especially when they cue up the relay events. Think Roller Derby on ice.
- Ice Dancing: If this is going to be a winter sport, then ballroom dancing needs to be an event of the Summer Games, no? Don’t get me wrong, the participants here are incredible athletes gifted with coordination and gracefulness, but this is not a sport. (See also Rhythmic Gymnastics and Synchronized Swimming in the Summer Games).
Boycotts or not, the show will go on in Beijing and will be broadcast on multiple television and streaming channels across the globe. I won’t be watching for both political and principled reasons, but good luck to all the athletes, and the curlers too.
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