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Is It OK to Watch the Winter Video games? A Former Olympian Weighs In.

By this time subsequent week, the Winter Olympics shall be effectively underway in Beijing. Just like the Summer time Olympics in Tokyo final yr, the worldwide gathering of athletes will happen throughout a worldwide pandemic. However China’s first expertise internet hosting the Winter Video games comes when Canada’s relationship with the nation is at a low amid an array of troubling human rights points.

My colleagues Steven Lee Myers, Keith Bradsher and Tariq Panja have offered an intensive and provocative take a look at how China was chosen because the host of the Video games regardless of its restricted expertise with winter sports activities. Extra vital, they’ve additionally seemed on the significance of the video games for Xi Jinping, China’s authoritarian chief.

[China’s Games: How Xi Jinping Is Staging the Olympics on His Terms]

“China not must show its standing on the world stage; as a substitute, it desires to proclaim the sweeping imaginative and prescient of a extra affluent, extra assured nation underneath Mr. Xi, the nation’s strongest chief since Mao Zedong,” they wrote. “The place the federal government as soon as sought to mollify its critics to make the Video games a hit, as we speak it defies them.”

Canada continues to be stinging from China’s jailing of the Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese tech executive, on the request of the USA. Final yr, the Canadian Safety and Intelligence Service warned the federal government that efforts by China to distort information in Chinese language-Canadian media retailers “have become normalized.”

Canada can be among the many many Western nations which have criticized China’s more and more authoritarian insurance policies, and, particularly, the repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a largely Muslim area within the northwest.

Final month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada was becoming a member of the USA, Britain, Australia, Lithuania and different international locations in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Video games as “a continuation of us persevering with to specific our deep issues about human rights violations.”

Regardless of the season, the Olympics are funded by two non-public sources past host governments: industrial sponsorships and tv rights, which, within the case of Canada, had been purchased by the C.B.C., as anybody who has even glimpsed at any of the broadcaster’s channels or web sites over the previous few months in all probability is aware of all too effectively by now.

As my colleagues Alexandra Stevenson and Steven Lee Myers wrote this week, the massive multinational companies which have spent about $1 billion on sponsoring the Video games don’t appear to be moved by the human rights scenario in China.

[Read: For Olympic Sponsors, ‘China Is an Exception’]

“Whereas the sponsors have confronted protests by human rights activists in a number of international locations, they’ve largely brushed them apart, selecting as a substitute to maintain China, and its rising class of nationalistic shoppers, completely happy,” my colleagues wrote.

All of this has left me each dreading and anticipating these Olympics. On the plus facet, I’ve watched a number of members of Canada’s cross nation ski staff develop up within the sport, so I’m clearly wanting ahead to seeing them race in one of many sport’s greatest venues.

However I additionally really feel uneasy about contributing to the viewers numbers that maintain the tv rights charges that can permit Mr. Xi to spotlight his model of China.

This week, I spoke about my dilemma with Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and a professor emeritus on the College of Toronto. He’s additionally presently the establishment’s ombudsperson.

Professor Kidd, a champion of athletes’ human rights, has studied the 2008 Beijing Video games and traveled to China repeatedly.

Like most consultants, he discovered that the 2008 Video games, which many had hoped would open the nation, as a substitute proved to be a step back for human rights.

“They had been very disturbing when it got here to the rights of athletes,” he advised me. “So many international locations advised their athletes to close up or go house. There have been new restrictions on what they might put on and what they might say. It gave us, on reflection, the face of the brand new, proud authoritarian China.”

That authoritarianism, he stated, has since solely grown. The pandemic and China’s restrictive public well being guidelines have additionally given Chinese language authorities a pretext to tightly control and monitor all Olympic participants because it additionally reminds athletes to not use the Video games’ huge viewers to make political factors.

[Read: Security Flaws Seen in China’s Mandatory Olympics App for Athletes]

Main as much as the Video games, Professor Kidd stated that he’d met with a number of athletes and sports activities officers who’ve agonized about going to Beijing. However he rejects the concept athletes are staying away.

“If there was a pan-Canadian consensus to chop off China, they’d be part of that,” he stated. “However they resent the large stress being placed on them to be the one individuals to take motion when it’s enterprise as regular for everyone else. That doesn’t imply they they’re not upset about what’s occurring with the Uyghurs and the Tibetans and so forth. Those that I do know are terribly upset. However they don’t have a capability to cope with that.”

His reply about what I and different tv viewers ought to do was much less direct.

“That’s a extremely, actually, actually laborious query,” Professor Kidd stated. “I’m a lifelong admirer of the Olympic best, and the Video games are in all probability probably the most significant ritual to me in my life and I’m wanting ahead to seeing them. However however, I’m very involved about what the Chinese language authorities is doing. However it is a world occasion and I’ll help it as a result of I help the thought, even underneath these very troublesome circumstances, of the sports activities world getting collectively. In order that’s the place I’m. It’s not excellent, however that’s the place I’m.”


  • Stephanie Nolen writes that Canada is among many wealthy nations “aggressively recruiting medical employees from the growing world to replenish a well being care work power drastically depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” elevating “new questions in regards to the ethics of recruitment from international locations with weak well being methods.”

  • As Canada’s soccer staff prepares for its World Cup qualifying match towards the USA on Sunday, James Wagner writes that in the case of discuss soccer supremacy in North and Central America and the Caribbean, “Canada’s sudden emergence from a decades slumber,” has modified “that calculus, and that dialog, in actual time.”

  • The eight members of the Canadian males’s curling staff have spent the weeks main as much as the Winter Olympics sequestered in a rental house in Vancouver that considered one of them describes as “a frat house without the booze.” Like athletes around the globe, they’re making an attempt to sidestep Covid-19 and keep away from being shut out of the video games, Andrew Keh writes.

  • A truck convoy that left British Columbia earlier this week was approaching Ottawa on Friday as different protesters started trickling into the capital from different areas. The convoy, which raised hundreds of thousands of {dollars} on-line, started as a protest towards obligatory vaccination for truck drivers coming back from the USA, but it surely has since expanded to incorporate a big selection of grievances and solutions of doable violence.

  • A researcher at Algoma College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is a amongst a staff of scientists who’ve manipulated a frog’s cells to regrow an imperfect however purposeful limb.


A local of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Occasions for the previous 16 years. Comply with him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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