The 2022 Winter Olympics is going to be held in Beijing, China. But the United States may be one of a number of countries that boycott the games, according to sources within the government.
It is believed that President Biden and his team are planning to discuss whether the US Winter Olympic Team should attend the event, due to what they view as China’s appalling record when it comes to violating human rights.
It is not yet known if the talks will include the views of the athletes, or even if the US Government has the authority to declare a boycott, but the State Department is reportedly considering a coordinated boycott of the games along with a number of other countries.
However, a day after the news story broke, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki commented that the U.S. is not discussing a potential boycott of the games.
Why does their appear to me so much confusion over the issue?
The United States is considering a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to the U.S. State Department. https://t.co/MC23UUvzFc
— Sportico (@Sportico) April 6, 2021
Increasing Calls For Boycott
The conflicting stories comes amidst increasing calls from a number of sources for a boycott of the games due to what they view as China’s appalling human rights abuses.
On Monday, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, commented that a potential boycott of the 2022 Winter Games “is something that we certainly with to discuss.”
He added that the U.S. was “engaging with partners, with allies, to coordinate, coordinate closely on decisions and approaches to the government in Beijing.”
Those allies are believed to be Canada, the UK and member states of the European Union, who have already sanctioned China for what they term as atrocities against native Uighurs in Xinjiang province.
China has since responded to those sanctions with retaliations of its own.
“I wouldn’t want to put a time frame on it, but these discussions are underway,” Price seemed to confirm at the end of his statement.
Yet a day or so later, a contradictory statement was put out by the State Department.
Psaki Issues Statement ‘Clarifying’ Earlier Remarks
The new statement by Jen Psaki stated that “Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners.”
She continued somewhat confusingly:
“The State Department Spokesperson did not say we had, contrary to some reporting. As the Department said, we regularly discuss common concerns vis-à-vis the PRC with our allies and partners. We will continue to do so, cognizant that a shared approach will always be in our interest.”
It seems somewhat unusual though for the U.S and its allies to be in regular discussions about China’s actions, and to not have considered the Winter Olympics in 2022 and how they should approach this thorny issue.
Could the change in tone from the government been due to the commercial ramifications of such a boycott?
When the USA last boycotted an Olympic event, the 1980 Games in Moscow, it cost TV network NBC, who had the rights to show the games, a huge amount in lost revenue due to a massively scaled down reporting on the games.
As Susanne Lyons, the TeamUSA Chairperson remarked, the team opposes boycotts as they generally tend to punish the prospective competing athletes, rather than the host country, far more. And, tellingly, they also put unfair pressure on sponsors.
There is no doubt that a boycott of the games by the US and its allies would put huge pressure on major companies operating in these countries, such as Microsoft, Apple, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, McDonalds, Amazon, etc to follow suit and boycott the games.
Many of these companies have already invested a great deal to be part of these games and could stand to lose huge amounts of money through any boycott. China has already taken action against companies like Nike and H&M after they commented negatively about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.
Analysts have also warned that any boycott would likely lead to tit-for-tat reprisals from China with sanctions against those that agitated for the boycott as well as Chinese teams boycotting western events.