First: what exactly has been going on lately? The United States has announced a boycott of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China. They don’t send dignitaries there.
A diplomatic boycott, not a sporting one. It is a response to how China violates the rights of Uyghurs, among others. Today it was announced that the British are also considering a similar move.
There is also the Peng Shuai case. The Chinese tennis star has accused a former vice premier of sexual misconduct. After that, she was off the radar for a while and a lot of people are still worried about her. The WTA, the women’s tennis association, does not trust the Chinese authorities and has decided to cancel all tennis tournaments in China for the time being.
Then in 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 treated. Despite calls for a boycott, the race proceeded with Justin Bieber’s performance at the end of the race. And it got it too a lot of reviews to.
Working conditions Qatar
And finally the World Cup. It will be played in Qatar at the end of next year. Much has been said about working conditions in stadium construction and, for example, LGBTI rights. The B word was also often mentioned during this sporting event.
The Norwegians seem to go the furthest in this regard. Previously, the national team jerseys already read “Human rights, on and off the pitch”, or “Human rights, on and off the pitch”. The Norwegian club Tromsø IL is now going further. There is a QR code on their uniform and if you scan it you will be taken to a page with information on human rights violations in Qatar.
It’s no surprise that countries, sports teams and other organizations are now all taking action. “Five to ten years ago, all kinds of sporting events were assigned. All these events are now taking place. And this also happens in countries like China or the Gulf States,” says Jan-Willem van der Roest. , lecturer in sport and society. at the University of Utrecht.
The pond is getting smaller
“The Gulf States in particular want to be less dependent on oil revenues in the future and therefore to profile themselves in the field of sport. Many western countries no longer wait for top-level sporting events due to the high costs. This means that the fishing pond of, in other words to designate a country as organizer, has become much smaller. “
In addition, human rights are generally not a criterion when designating a city or host country. This is now the case. But the host countries for today and the year to come have therefore been chosen for a longer period of time, at a time when Saudi Arabia and Qatar still met all the criteria. “That’s why you see that countries and sports associations are now opposing it at the same time,” says Van der Roest.
It remains to be seen whether these actions and statements really make sense. “In China, they will not lose sleep over diplomatic boycotts like the United States,” correspondent Roland Smid said.
“In addition, countries that could support a boycott are rejected as a minority by China. United States, Canada, Australia and some European countries may appreciate it, but not countries in Asia, South America and Africa. And that’s the majority. anyway.”
Politicians not protagonists
“And besides: dignitaries are not the protagonists of a sporting event. Perhaps the Chinese would find it boring that the athletes stay at home, but not the politicians.”
Although the Chinese are not completely opposed to certain muscle languages. “On the one hand, they show that it doesn’t matter, but on the other hand, they react to it very strongly.” China has already announced countermeasures against the United States. “So they care. China loves prestige. Those kinds of actions take away some of that shine.”
Middle East correspondent Olaf Koens also recognizes this prestigious role. “Regimes like Saudi Arabia’s want to be recognized internationally. They want to be known. That sporting events come with enormous human rights violations and megalomaniacal corruption, all of which can be technically brushed aside from the image.
“The legitimate presence of obscure practices”
And it works, explains Koens. “This is the painful thing. The participation and presence of all kinds of countries legitimizes the practices of the shadows.” After all, no country has withdrawn its athletes from an event or tournament.
“What the Americans are doing now with the Winter Games in China is already a step further,” says Koens. “But if you really want to hit those kind of authoritarian countries, then a diplomatic declaration or boycott is not enough. Then you really have to boycott it.”
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