In 1936, the world was faced with a choice: either attend the Berlin Olympics, hosted by the Nazi regime, or stay home in protest of Germany’s brutal human’s rights violations. We chose wrong.
Those Olympics have since been dubbed the ‘games of shame’ due to the world’s willing ignorance of Germany’s actions. Now, 85 years later, we’re faced with a similar choice. The decision should be an easy one.
The Chinese government has been committing genocide against the Uyghur minority through forced sterilization and ‘re-education’ for years. Attending the Olympic games next year will only serve to normalize this abhorrent behaviour.
In the national dialogue surrounding the merits of boycotting, the common objection is that staying home is unproductive and will burden our athletes more than it will the Chinese government.
While I’m truly sympathetic to athletes who’ve spent the last few years preparing for the Olympics, this response doesn’t hold any water. Would we be making this same excuse if we had to explain our decision to attend the games directly to suffering Uyghurs? How could one explain that?
Choosing to attend the Olympics this year sends the message that we care more about showing off our sports skills than what the Uyghur minority is going through. Broken down in this way, prioritizing sport over human lives feels gross, as it should.
Not only is participating in the games immoral, but we would be placing our athletes at undue risk. The Chinese government has already arbitrarily held two Canadians hostage for over two years to increase their bargaining power. How can we willingly send over hundreds of our highest-profile athletes?
While the ‘unfairness to athletes’ argument has been put forth by the Canadian Olympic Committee, the reason the federal government is refusing to take a stand is different. Simply put, we’re scared of upsetting the Chinese government and have resorted to kowtowing in the hopes that if we ask nicely enough, we may finally end up in their good graces.
This ‘strategy’ has gotten us nowhere.
If the Trudeau government were ever looking to take a stand, with actions rather than platitudes, now would be the time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look promising. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have shown they’re more willing to boycott a vote designating China’s actions as genocide than they are to boycott the Olympics.
But the fact that this vote in the House of Commons last week received unanimous support shows this issue transcends politics.
Even if we’re met by backlash from the Chinese government, even if this action alone doesn’t halt the genocide, sometimes you simply need to take action because it’s the right thing to do.
Someone needs to take a stand, and there’s no reason it can’t be us.
Matt is a fifth-year Applied Economics major and The Journal’s Sports Editor.
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