Greece Should Boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics | Opinion

The torch lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games took place on Monday amid protests in Olympia, Greece, the site of the ancient Olympic Games. The Olympic torch will then be handed over from the Hellenic Olympic Committee to the Beijing 2022 team on Tuesday.

Despite China's egregious human rights violations (genocide, occupation, arbitrary detention, to name a few), my country, Greece, became the first country to accept China's invitation to attend Beijing 2022 after Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and urged him not to "politicize" the Winter Games. By accepting the invitation, the Greek government is now complicit in the Chinese government's crimes and is soiling the sacred origin of the Olympics. As a Greek scholar of human rights and sports, who comes from a family of Olympians, I am calling on the Greek government to boycott Beijing 2022.

The Olympic Games originated in Greece with the noble purpose of building a unified and peaceful world among Greek tribes through athletic games. Its practice transcended notions of competition and politics, with a commitment that was profoundly spiritual and liberating among all participants. However, this aspiration in the modern Olympic Games has become co-opted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), profit-oriented corporations and often authoritarian regimes. The modern Olympics have evolved into a multibillion, multinational corporation that disregards genocides and pandemics and is totally disconnected from its ancient origins. The examples of this disconnection are many and apparent.

Forty years after the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Adolf Hitler introduced the Olympic torch relay for the Nazi Olympics in Berlin in 1936; an intentional symbolic act to connect ancient Greece with "Aryan supremacy." Despite allowing the Nazi salute in 1936, the IOC deemed Tommie Smith and John Carlos' legendary Black Power salute in 1968 a "violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit." The IOC has still not apologized to Smith and Carlos. Furthermore, the IOC continues to ignore the long overdue demands of Native Americans to designate Jim Thorpe—one of the greatest athletes in history and a two time Olympic Gold medalist—as the sole winner in the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon during the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912. Finally and perhaps most egregiously, the next Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, hosted by a government hellbent on using the Games to "sportswash" their deplorable crimes.

One paragraph is not nearly enough to describe the innumerable crimes of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). From the genocide of the Uyghur people, to the decades-long, brutal occupation of Tibet, millions of innocent people are currently suffering due to the callousness and greed of the CCP. And yet, Xi Jinping is quite literally getting away with murder, as many corporations, governments and international institutions prefer to sweep China's abuses under the rug. The Chinese government spends millions each year to spread lies about its human rights record—the 2022 Beijing Olympics will simply be Xi's latest propaganda push.

A Chinese man wears a protective mask
A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he walk in front the logos of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at National Aquatics Centre on April 9, 2021, in Beijing, China. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Greek government should be especially wary of partnering with the Chinese government at the expense of its victims. After all, what is happening today to Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hongkongers is a reflection of our past struggles as a sovereign people—the struggles for independence after 400 years of Ottoman occupation that included physical and cultural genocide, subjugation, rape and the removal of children from their families. These atrocities eventually led to the genocide of Greek Christians along with Armenians, and Assyrians in the early 20th century. These are not just historical events of the past, but the collective memories of the Greek people that carry unresolved trauma along with a sense of responsibility to prevent similar suffering in the future.

In light of the bicentennial commemoration of the Greek Revolution in 1821, Beijing 2022 is a rare moment for the Greek government to honor our past and take a stand against the IOC and the Chinese government's distortion of our most sacred, Indigenous heritage.

As the Olympic torch is passed to Beijing today, it is a critical moment, not only to stand for what is morally the right thing, but most importantly to reclaim what belongs to all of humanity. It is not too late for the Greek government to stand on the right side of history and boycott the Games. Our collective memories urge us to stand in solidarity with all peoples oppressed by the CCP. It was never our birthright to be complicit in any oppressor's genocidal acts, but rather it is our obligation to fight together against oppression, until all of us are free.

Kostas Koutsioumpas holds a PhD in global inclusion and social development from the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research centers on the intersection of human rights, sports and (de)colonization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.