2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Boycott Looming From 'Genocide' and COVID

Politicians from two powerful western countries have begun initiating a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not move the Games to another country. It started with politicians in the United Kingdom, followed by one proposal in the United States Congress.

So far, two major Olympic committees don't agree, saying they are against Olympic boycotts—regardless of the reason. The United States and Canadian Olympic committees have already said they do not support such boycotts.

China has already spent billions in infrastructure, and the country hopes to use the Winter Olympics to coincide with the Chinese New Year in 2022. The two elements would allow China to showcase its centuries-long tradition along with state-of-the-art technology. Beijing would also become the first city to ever hold both the Summer Olympics (2008) and the Winter Olympics. Countries have held multiple Games, but a single city has never held both.

However, other countries point toward China's recent controversies as a way to keep their athletes, coaches, fans and families from visiting China or any of the host cities near Beijing.

Mike Waltz, a Republican representative from Florida, said Monday he doesn't believe the United States "cannot" in good conscience participate in the quadrennial Games hosted by a "brutal dictatorship." This follows British politicians supporting a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Games.

Waltz filed a resolution urging the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to "propose the transfer of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to a site other than within the People's Republic of China." Should moving to another country not happen, then Waltz said the U.S. and other countries should "withdraw" from the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The USOPC issued a statement on February 4 that said it was against a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. "We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues. We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and geopolitical issues."

The resolution filed by Waltz says the Chinese Communist Party has extended "repressive policies through censorship, intimidation and the detention of individuals and groups for exercising their fundamental human rights, especially in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Hong Kong."

The resolution also identifies mass internment camps, forced labor, efforts to intensify persecution of campaigns that bring religion into China and those under watchful control during the spread of COVID-19.

"Hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in the PRC, where organized atrocities in the XUAR are ongoing; where the freedoms of Hong Kong's citizens are being trampled; where the fundamental right to worship is brutally persecuted; and in the wake of the ongoing global devastation from COVID-19; would be immoral, unethical and wrong," the resolution states.

Beijing Olympics
People celebrate the one year countdown to the Olympics at Tiananmen Square on August 8, 2007 in Beijing, China. Various events are being held in the Chinese capital to celebrate the one-year countdown to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games today. Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images

Although the relationship between Washington and Beijing has splintered over the last several years, a U.S.-led boycott could drive an even bigger wedge between the two countries.

Though the Summer Olympics have been boycotted before—notably by the U.S. in 1980 and the U.S.S.R. in 1984—a Winter Olympics boycott would be unprecedented. If other countries follow suit and also boycotted the 2022 Winter Games, it could have a crippling and embarrassing effect for Beijing, which is scheduled to become the only city to ever hold both a Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. The 2008 Summer Olympics still have one of the most-memorable Opening Ceremonies that was held at the famous Beijing National Stadium, also known as the "Birds Nest."

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place Feb. 4-20, 2022, in three different cities in northern China. Russia is not allowed to compete because of past doping allegations, which leaves countries mostly from the West. If the U.S. were to boycott, many European countries could follow the United States' lead.

A multi-national boycott could have a ripple effect into China's economic forecast that could lead to a mammoth financial loss for the country. China has already built a high-speed rail line to connect Beijing to Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, which are the other two cities scheduled to host events for the 2022 Games.

A boycott could also lead to financial losses for the boycotting countries—from sponsorships to broadcasting rights. It would also pull the rug from underneath the athletes who train most of their lives for this moment.

Former President Donald Trump talked tough against China during 2020 because of the spread of COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan. The first act Trump pulled to stop the virus was halting all travel from China into the United States. Trump often referred to COVID as the "China virus" and the "Wuhan virus" before ever calling it "coronavirus."

Trump never officially called for a boycott of the Beijing Games, though.

Newsweek reached out to the White House and Olympic committee representation from Great Britain. Canada and the U.S. committees have responded.

China has planned to use the 2022 Games to coincide with its Spring Festival, better known as Chinese New Year, for the world to see how the country celebrates. The Chinese New Year in 2022—the Year of the Tiger—begins February 1 and lasts 16 days.

China has already constructed and opened a 108-mile-long, high-speed rail system from Beijing to Zhangjiakou. The world's first driverless bullet train, which opened December 30, 2019, can reach speeds up to 217 miles per hour (350 km/hr). These "smart trains" have state-of-the-art facial recognition technology at stations, and it has cabin capacity suited for athletes carrying large equipment, and accessibility for disabled athletes traveling back and forth for the Winter Paralympic Games.

President Trump and Winter Olympians
U.S. President Donald Trump is presented with two flags as he hosts Team USA at the North Portico of the White House April 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted the team to celebrate their victories in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Holding the Olympic Team flag are bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor and curler John Shuster. Holding the Paralympic Team flag are snowboarder Mike Schultz and snowboarder Brenna Huckaby. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin about seven months after the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which were postponed exactly one year because of COVID-19.

The Winter Olympics take place every four years, and have fewer sports and participating countries than the Summer Olympics. The Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to hold 109 events that will be held in the three competition zones of central Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou.

The Winter Olympics has three main categories:

  1. Ice sports
  2. Alpine, skiing and snowboard events
  3. Nordic events

Most countries from Africa, South America and Oceania do not participate. Major medal contenders every Winter Games include the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, China and Japan. Many of those countries have been adversely affected by the virus.

Team Canada has already said a "boycott is not the answer" for Beijing. When queried, the Canadian Olympic Committee directed Newsweek to an op-ed piece earlier this month from Olympic Committee chairman David Shoemaker and Paralympic Committee Chairman Karen O'Neill.

"Over the past few months, we have started to hear rumblings of a proposed boycott of the Beijing Games," the committee overseers wrote. "China's troubling human-rights record, the oppression of the Uyghur minority and the continued detention of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, are deeply concerning for us. In no way are we, at the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, trying to minimize what is happening in China. But a boycott is not the answer."

Should countries like Italy, Germany, France and other European countries follow a boycott, it would devastate the entire Games. That, coupled with the fact Russia is not allowed to compete as a country because of doping allegations, could lead to a sharp decrease in expected visitors to Beijing in 2022, and perhaps force the International Olympic Committee to make a decision on whether to hold a scaled-down Winter Olympics in Beijing—or move them to another country.

Those options most likely would start with PyeongChang, South Korea, which hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics. They have recent facilities and infrastructure, and it would keep the Games in Asia.

Russia hosted the Winter Games in 2014 at Sochi, but with the country being banned from international competition during a four-year period, it would be a tough move for the IOC to go back there in 2022.

Canada hosted the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Italy hosted the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, and the country will host the Winter Olympics again during 2026 in Milan.

The United States held the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and the Utah state capital still serves as a training site for some U.S. Olympic hopefuls. Americans also train in Lake Placid, New York, which held the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Olympic boycotts are not new, and they have almost been entirely political. But to date, the only boycotts have been for Summer Olympics—never for winter sports. Here are some of the more notable boycotts.

China led a multinational boycott of the 1976 Montreal Olympics after Canada would allow Taiwanese athletes to participate, but not under the Chinese flag.

The United States led a 66-nation boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games in a way to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979.

The Soviet Union and 14 other countries, mostly from the Eastern Bloc, boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Although USSR and the other countries cited they did not think their athletes and coaches would have adequate security protection, it's highly believed their boycott was a retaliation to the U.S.-led boycott in 1980.

Trump last summer publicly scolded China regarding the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. As the virus spread through January, Trump banned travel from China to the United States. As the virus reached the states and began spreading from coast to coast, and more Americans tested positive and died, Trump continued harsh words for China—even seeking financial compensation or some type of harsh punishment against them. His administration never publicly threatened a boycott, though.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.


Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts