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POINT: Biden’s diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics is apt decision

In late 2021, the Biden administration officially declared it will diplomatically boycott the Beijing Olympics due to China’s horrendous human rights abuses. Although I rarely agree with President Joe Biden, I absolutely believe this is the correct call.

According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the decision was made in direct response to China’s genocidal treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province.

As Psaki noted, “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that.”

“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Psaki added.

Interestingly, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which chose Beijing as the host city for the 2022 Winter Games, is also committed to upholding human rights, or so they say. Per the IOC, “The IOC is committed to improving the promotion and respect of human rights within the scope of its responsibility.”

Furthermore, IOC states, “The development of an IOC human rights strategic framework is aimed at reinforcing this coherence and alignment, strengthening the IOC’s overall approach in this field, and embedding, in a more systematic and comprehensive way, the IOC’s human rights approach across its operations.”

Suffice to say, if the IOC is sincere in its quest to quell human rights abuses, it would never have chosen China as the 2022 host country. Yet, it did.

This is not the first time the IOC has decided to bestow the Olympic Games, one of the world’s most prestigious and celebrated events, to a genocidal regime. In 1931, the IOC voted to hold the 1936 Summer Games in Munich, Germany. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Despite Hitler’s horrific treatment of Germany’s Jews, the IOC turned a blind eye and allowed the Olympics to remain in what became Nazi Germany.

Hitler knew he could use the Olympic Games as a pedestal for propaganda purposes, which is exactly what he did. In fact, many historians argue that hosting the 1936 Olympic Games gave the new Nazi government a sense of instant credibility on the world’s stage.

In the years leading up to the 1936 Olympics, for the first time in modern history, several nations considered boycotting the Munich Games. In the United States, Jewish groups in particular pleaded for a national boycott.

However, the boycott movement gradually subsided and the United States sent a full diplomatic delegation as well as 312 athletes. By the time the opening ceremonies were held, the 1936 Olympic Games included athletes and diplomatic delegations from 49 countries, the largest contingent ever.

After the 1936 Games, Nazi Germany was legitimized throughout the world. From its extraordinary stadiums to its massive Olympic Village, the Games were a stunning success and a propaganda coup of epic proportions for the Nazis. However, soon after the Games concluded, an emboldened Hitler began his conquest of Europe. The rest is history.

This is not to say that the 2022 Beijing Olympics will result in World War III. But it is necessary to point out that by diplomatically boycotting the coming Olympics and calling China out for its abhorrent human rights abuses, the United States (along with several other nations) is at the very least holding China accountable for its human rights violations.

This begs another question: Should the United States entirely boycott the 2022 Olympic Games, as it did in 1980, after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan?

According to some U.S. leaders, that is exactly the path we should take. For instance, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., argues, “The United States should fully boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing. American businesses should not financially support the Chinese Communist Party and we must not expose Team USA to the dangers of a repugnant authoritarian regime that disappears its own athletes.”

Although Cotton makes a very valid point, an all-out boycott of the Beijing Games would be a disservice to the hundreds of American athletes who have trained for years so they can represent their country on the ultimate stage.

Therefore, it seems that the middle-of-the-road approach taken by the Biden administration, in which American athletes can participate if they so choose, but U.S. diplomats will not attend the Beijing Games, is the most sensible solution.

This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. TNS did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of TNS or its editors.)