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  • Top Story Replay: OpEd - Reject Beijing Winter Olympics


    05/02/20

    (ATR) Chinese culpability in the coronavirus pandemic could mean pressure to pull the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing.

    In this OpEd, an eyewitness to the 1980 U.S. boycott against the Soviet Union says China may have to pay a price if there’s a determination officials failed to disclose the threat posed by the illness.

    Mike Harrigan represented the U.S. Olympic Committee for all government relations issues when President Jimmy Carter demanded that the U.S. boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow over the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

    Harrigan conceived and directed the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports (1975-77) which formed the basis for the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. He has also three times taught a seminar at Yale University on Olympic issues.

    Harrigan says pulling the Games from Beijing should be a decision shared by all the nations of the world which have suffered from the virus:

    The greatest fear of the authoritarian, communist government of China is failing to keep its people happy and to discourage and prevent any form of rebellion or uprising. This is why it has permitted certain levels of capitalism and free trade to flourish in the country. In return, the Chinese people have, so far, accepted the dictatorship that is the communist party’s control mechanism. But the relationship is tenuous.

    This may also explain why the Chinese government appears to have minimized the spread of the coronavirus in China and done nothing to prevent the spread worldwide. In fact, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that the Chinese government deliberately withheld critical information concerning the virus.

    These actions are all consistent with a secondary Chinese government objective, namely to secure world economic and military domination. Simultaneously, the Chinese government seeks to promote an extremely positive image of itself before the community of nations; it does not want, in any way, to be forced to “save face” before the rest of the world. This is why it has “covered up” its actions concerning the virus and refuses to cooperate with nations seeking information concerning its original spread.

    It is in this context that the community of nations must decide what to do to discipline the Chinese government for its actions.

    Harrigan in 1977 briefing with President Gerald Ford
    An initiative to pull the 2022 Olympic Winter Games from Beijing appears to be the best option to achieve reconciliation on the one hand and attack the Chinese government ‘s objectives on the other. Additionally, if there are coronavirus vestiges alive in China in 2022, moving the Games will protect athletes from affliction.

    Holding the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing allows the Chinese government to achieve great prestige while keeping its people happy.

    The Olympic Winter Games are not the undertaking in terms of size, facilities, sports, money in comparison with the summer Olympic Games. Only eight sports with various disciplines comprise the Winter Games; 33 sports are in the summer version. The summer Games attract every one of the world’s 206 National Olympic Committees. Less than half that number will participate in the winter version. The only commonality between the two is the word “Olympic”.

    With 22 months before the start of the Olympic Winter Games, the key question is whether there is a site that can be ready to host the Winter Games? Probably yes – if the IOC acts quickly to pull the Games from Beijing.

    The IOC should not act unilaterally in this instance as it appropriately tries to separate sports from politics.

    Rather, what should happen is that the world wide community of nations, governments, NOCs, and athletes, all which have suffered so greatly from Chinese government actions regarding the pandemic should demand that the IOC remove the Olympic Winter Games from Beijing and appoint a successor host.

    The IOC would only be acting as a result of constituent wishes--and not political considerations.

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