When the International Olympic Committee awarded Beijing the 2008 Summer Olympics, it promised that the Games could improve human rights and civil liberties in China.
There is no such noble speech this time around with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games – which will open in just four months. February 4.
Instead, there are calls for governments to boycott the Games with 3,000 athletes, sponsors and broadcasters pressured by rights groups representing minorities across China.
IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly dodged questions over whether to hold the Games in China despite evidence of alleged genocide, widespread surveillance and crimes against humanity involving at least 1 million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim minorities.
Tibet, a flashpoint as 2008 approaches, remains one.
“The big difference between the two Beijing Games is that in 2008, Beijing tried to please the world,” Xu Guoqi, historian at the University of Hong Kong, said in an email to The Associated Press. “In 2022, he doesn’t really care what the rest of the world thinks about it.”
An expert on Chinese sports and the Olympics, Xu said Beijing in 2008 tried to appease “world opinion”.
“Now he’s doing his best to tell the world about his intentions. If the world doesn’t listen, so be it,” Xu wrote.
Xi Jinping is now the powerful secretary general of the Communist Party of China, but in 2008 he was in charge of running the Olympics.
Beijing clinched the 2008 Games after a long pursuit – its poor rights record helped end its bid for the 2000 Olympics.
Some IOC members at the time openly declared the attribution of the Olympics to China, as this would give tacit approval to the country’s conduct.
“Although Xi was in charge of the 2008 Olympics, these Winter Games are truly Xi’s Games,” Xu wrote. “Western countries literally decided to let Xi hold his Games without resistance in 2015 when Beijing faced only one competitor.”
The 2022 Games were a long one and came largely by default when several favorite European cities, including Oslo and Stockholm, gave up for political or financial reasons.
Almaty, Kazakhstan, was Beijing’s only remaining rival in the IOC’s vote in 2015.
Beijing organizers announced a series of test events on Monday that will begin this week. The first is a speed skating event – the China Open – which starts on Friday. Testing is to be conducted under the same rigid guidelines released last week for the Olympics themselves. Athletes and all others are subject to strict controls which have the full support of the IOC.
The tests take place until the end of the year.
“The work of prevention and protection against the epidemic is the top priority for the test events,” said Yao Hui, director of site management for the organizing committee.
Huang Chun, deputy director of the organizing committee, called the overseas cases “great risk to our country.”
Organizers said about 2,000 participants from outside China, including athletes, technical staff and officials, will take part in the tests in three competition areas.
Ice events will be held in Beijing with skiing and sliding in Yanqing, northwest of Beijing. Other events are taking place in Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei Province.
The IOC has been pushing for a relaxation of reporting rules for journalists heading into 2008. There is none of that now, with the pandemic being cited as the reason for the crackdown.
Some see tough coronavirus protocols as a practical excuse for increased control of Olympic visitors.
“These measures may be justified as public health measures,” said Sheena Greitens, who studies Chinese Homeland Security at the University of Texas, “but they have the side benefit of avoiding a repeat of the last time. that the Olympic Games were held in Beijing, in 2008, when the torch relay was repeatedly interrupted by demonstrators and there were also attempted protests during the Games themselves. ”
Everyone participating in the Olympics, including athletes, will be invited to get the vaccine, which the IOC has encouraged but volunteered in Tokyo. The alternative to full vaccination in China will be a 21-day quarantine. This would apparently make it difficult for athletes to train.
The rules state that no one will be allowed out of a “closed-loop management system,” which restricts movement from arrival to departure and locks out media.
“This closed-loop management system will cover all areas related to the Games, including arrival and departure, transport, accommodation, catering, competitions and opening and closing ceremonies,” said the IOC in its press release last week. “In the closed loop, participants will be allowed to travel only between Games-related venues for training, competitions and work. A transport system dedicated to the Games will be put in place.
Only fans from mainland China will be allowed to attend the Olympics. Organizers suggested on Monday that some fans would be allowed to participate in test events, but gave no details of how many or who they would be.
Rules for the Tokyo Olympics, which ended just two months ago, were lax by comparison and allowed free movement across the country after an initial quarantine period.
The authoritarian state of China will not allow this despite the fact that most, if not all, of the participants will be fully vaccinated and everyone will be subjected to rigorous daily testing during the Games.