China Knew It Couldn’t Escape Politics at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. It Didn’t Try
Within the run-up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China has insisted on protecting politics and sports activities separate. When the U.S. and allies introduced a diplomatic boycott of the Video games, China stated the Olympics shouldn’t be used as “a stage for political posturing and manipulation.”
However because the Video games formally kicked off on Friday, it was clear that Chinese language officers weren’t planning to shrink back from geopolitical points as the worldwide highlight shifted to Beijing.
The messages—some refined, some not—contrasted with the threads of worldwide unity and togetherness that ran via director Zhang Yimou’s elegantly choreographed opening ceremony.
It started hours earlier than the opening ceremony, when Chinese language President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin—who flew to China for the Video games. It was the primary face-to-face assembly Xi has had with one other world chief in practically two years.
After the assembly, the 2 nations issued a press release opposing the growth of NATO, which Putin has used as a serious sticking level in his standoff with the West over Ukraine. Beijing joined Moscow in calling on the alliance to “abandon its ideologized Chilly Conflict approaches.”
Putin was one of many few world leaders who was in attendance on the opening ceremony—which was dramatically scaled again from the 2008 Summer season Video games extravaganza within the metropolis that noticed then-U.S. President George W. Bush attend.
A lot of the criticism surrounding the Beijing Olympics has targeted on China’s remedy of Uyghurs and different Muslim-majority ethnic teams within the northwestern area of Xinjiang. China has lengthy dismissed criticism over this problem as an inner matter. It has denied proof of systematic detention, surveillance, and inhabitants management efforts in Xinjiang, and angrily denounced Western allegations that it quantities to genocide.
The opening ceremony appeared meet this criticism head-on. At the start, it featured representatives of all 56 formally acknowledged ethnic teams, together with Uyghurs, standing collectively in concord and passing the Chinese language flag throughout Beijing’s Nationwide Stadium.
Then, as a part of the spectacular cauldron lighting ceremony, one of many two Chinese language athletes who participated was cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who’s Uyghur. That element didn’t escape the discover of human rights activists, together with at Human Rights Watch—which has been calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Winter Video games over China’s remedy of Uyghurs and different ethnic minorities.
The participation of Taiwanese athletes was additionally caught up within the glare of politics. Relations between the self-ruled island and Beijing—which considers Taiwan to be a rogue province that should be introduced again below management—are at a low level. Chinese language warplanes have repeatedly entered Taiwan’s air protection identification zone, together with as just lately as Jan. 23.
Whereas Taiwanese sports activities officers initially stated that they deliberate to skip the opening ceremony, the Worldwide Olympic Committee intervened, insisting that Taiwan’s Olympic delegation should take part.
As Taiwanese athletes entered the Nationwide Stadium for the “parade of countries” on Friday, they have been introduced below the identify “Chinese language Taipei”—a diplomatic workaround that’s frequent to Taiwan’s look on the worldwide stage.
Nonetheless, for viewers on China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the delegation was introduced utilizing a phrase that interprets as “China, Taipei”—which suggests that the island is a part of China. The following delegation was Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese language territory.
“When the Taipei and Hong Kong delegations got here out, the digicam was given to the President. Not an inch of the motherland must be misplaced!” stated one commenter on Chinese language social media platform Weibo.
Because the opening ceremony drew to an in depth, IOC President Thomas Bach emphasised the Video games’ message of unity regardless of battle. “That is the mission of the Olympic Video games,” Bach stated, “bringing us collectively in peaceable competitors—at all times constructing bridges, by no means erecting partitions.”