The Olympics are streaming this February — ignore them

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Despite the competitive nature intrinsic to the Olympic Games, shared excitement surrounding the event stokes a sense of international unity. Across the globe, billions of eyes are peeled to screens boasting athletic feats so impressive fans are likely to curb their national pride and watch in awe, untethered. The delirium surrounding the 2022 Games may drown its most critical component: China is hosting.

Human Rights Watch reported that China’s Communist Party “sees human rights as an existential threat.” And they have the track record to prove it. CCP leader Xi Jinping has enforced militant rule via constant surveillance, stringent censorship, travel restraints, historical erasure, unexplained disappearances, mass incarceration, forced sterilization, systematic rape, labor camps, and reported genocide.

After accusing a public official of sexual abuse in November, a tennis star disappeared, resurfaced, and retracted the assault claim. A Hong Kong news site was shut down last month to accommodate Beijing’s agitprop standards. The indoctrination, torture, and murder of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang is state-sanctioned.

The U.S. joined several other countries in diplomatic boycotts against the Beijing Games, yet Xi remains confident. The upcoming Games, he says, “demonstrate [China's] commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind.”

Pray that that future — replete with human rights abuses — does not come to fruition. Pray and, more importantly, boycott. Viewers are vital stakeholders more than ever before because no tickets are available for the 2022 Games. Pandemic precautions mean that visibility and revenue are only possible through television screenings.

Broadcasting rights comprise 73 percent of the International Olympic Committee’s funding; they are beholden to broadcasting services. If viewership plummets this year, broadcasting companies will be loath to invest as much in future Games. This, in turn, incentivizes the IOC to hold host countries to a higher humanitarian standard. If viewership does not drop, the IOC has no reason to change.

Xi wants to put on a show, but no one is making you watch. Tuning into the Olympics is an active choice. Is an hour of speed skating worth rewarding China with your attention? If you believe in our democracy enough to vote, then believe in human rights enough to boycott. Whether by vote or view, our choices are powerful.

Though watching the Games can be fun, missing its coverage is not by any means catastrophic. Xi’s increasingly violent authoritarianism is. There are plenty of alternatives to sate your winter sports cravings. Scour Netflix, watch past Games, experience the sport for yourself.

The 2022 Games are part of Xi’s broader campaign to bulldoze rights concerns. He’s seen plenty of success; even missteps that have been felt across the globe have been grossly downplayed. Recall late 2019, when doctors in Wuhan noticed something was wrong. Too many infections, too many deaths, all happening too fast. What was going on? Nothing, the government said. “Hospital leaders refused to authorize masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) because it would cause panic,” wrote Annie Sparrow in a Foreign Policy report. “Hospital leaders insisted that spread among humans was impossible — that no staff members were infected — even altering diagnoses that suggested otherwise.” Doctors who documented the virus disappeared.

When evidence of COVID-19 became indisputable, CCP leaders announced that they had vaccines with incredible efficacy. Except they didn’t. Case counts continue to be falsely reported, and why shouldn’t they be? The consequences imposed on China for its COVID-19 policies — and the havoc it has wreaked — are negligible. Pandemic dishonesty has been swept into the corner of international conscious, entangled somewhere between dictatorship and genocide.

Over a quarter of the world watched the last Winter Games. Activists hope that percentage plunges this year. “We postponed the Olympics for a pandemic,” Tibetan activist and Mount Holyoke student Tsela Zoksang said. “I don’t see why we can’t postpone for genocide.”

Amidst the severity and scope of China’s human rights abuses, it may seem impossible for individual intervention. But action is simple: Boycott the Beijing Games.