First, what exactly happened recently? The United States has announced a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. They don’t send VIPs there.
A diplomatic boycott, not sports. It is a response to how China is violating the rights of Uyghurs, among others. Today it was announced that the British are also considering a similar move.
In addition, there is the issue of Peng Shuai. The Chinese tennis star has accused the former deputy prime minister of sexual misconduct. After that, she went off the radar for a while and many people are still worried about her. The Women’s Tennis Association, the WTA, does not trust the Chinese authorities and has decided to cancel all tennis tournaments in China for the time being.
Then to the Middle East. Last weekend, Formula 1 landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. According to many, it is not really a country where human rights are well handled. Despite calls for a boycott, the race continued with Justin Bieber performing at the end of the race. And that’s what made it too a lot of criticism employment.
Qatar working conditions
Finally the World Cup. It will be held in Qatar at the end of next year. There has been much talk about working conditions in stadium construction, for example, LGBT rights. The B word is often mentioned in this sporting event as well.
The Norwegians seem to go to great lengths in this regard. Previously, the national team’s jerseys were already written “Human rights, on and off the field”, or “Human rights, on and off the field”. Norwegian club Tromso IL takes another step forward. There is a QR code on their uniform, and if you scan it, you will be taken to a page with information about human rights violations in Qatar.
Not surprisingly, states, sports teams and other bodies are now taking action. says Jan-William van der Rost, lecturer in sport and society at Utrecht University.
The pond gets smaller
“Gulf countries in particular want to be less dependent on oil income in the future and thus stand out in the field of sports. Many Western countries no longer wait for major sporting events due to high costs. This means that al-Baraka is to fish from, in other words, select country What as an entrepreneur, it has become a lot smaller.”
Furthermore, human rights were not usually a criterion when defining a host city or country. This is the case now. But the host countries for today and next year were chosen much longer, at a time when Saudi Arabia and Qatar still met all the criteria. “That’s why you see that states and sports federations are now speaking against it at the same time,” van der Royest says.
It remains to be seen if these actions and statements really make sense. “In China, they won’t lose sleep because of diplomatic boycotts like the US,” says reporter Roland Smead.
“In addition, countries that could support a boycott are dismissed by China as a minority. The United States, Canada, Australia and some European countries may like it, but countries in Asia, South America, and Africa don’t. And that’s the majority anyway.”
Politicians not heroes
“And besides: VIPs are not the champion at a sporting event. Perhaps the Chinese would find it annoying if the athletes stayed home, but not the politicians.”
Although the Chinese don’t quite hate some muscle language. “On the one hand, they show that it doesn’t matter, but on the other hand they react strongly.” China has already announced countermeasures against the United States. “So they care. China loves prestige. These kinds of actions take away some of that brilliance.”
The Middle East correspondent, Olaf Koenz, also acknowledges this prestige role. “Regimes like Saudi Arabia want to be internationally famous. They want to be known. Those sporting events are accompanied by massive human rights abuses and paranoid corruption, all of which can be ignored from an image technology point of view.”
‘Presence legitimizes ambiguous practices’
And that works, Cowens explains. “This is the painful thing. The participation and presence of all kinds of states legitimizes opaque practices.” After all, not a single country has withdrawn its athletes from an event or championship.
“What Americans are doing now with the Winter Games in China is really a step forward,” says Cowens. “But if you really want to hit these kinds of authoritarian countries, issuing a statement or a diplomatic boycott won’t suffice. Then you really have to boycott them.”
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