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Beijing 2022: Blind eyes come cheap at the IOC

·Columnist
·5 min read
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Upon arrival in Beijing, Olympic athletes are being greeted with hazmat suits and malware. They can bring burner phones to guard against the Chinese stealing from them, but the over-the-top, performance-art COVID-19 protocols are unavoidable. There’s an isolation center waiting for any defiance.

Is there someone phishing via my IG account? Are these COVID tests legit?

It’s not the traditional Olympic Spirit. But it is the spirit of Beijing 2022.

Why are they doing this in a country with an absurd, so-called “Zero COVID” plan that defies science and logic because it’s about neither science nor logic?

“I doubt that we will see fair play in the competitions in China,” Michael Hoelz, the president of the German snowboarding federation, said last month. “It is relatively easy with the [COVID-19] testing. Someone can later say, ‘We’re sorry, it was a false positive.’”

Give Hoelz credit for saying out loud what everyone else is discussing privately.

Is it fair to be presumptively suspicious of state-sponsored cheating? It is when dealing with the modern Olympics.

The last time the IOC succumbed to corruption and cowardice, and placed the Games in one of these totalitarian-type countries, the Russians built a structure in Sochi next to the doping lab and spent each night passing dirty samples out and clean samples in through a hole in the wall.

Two predictable things happened.

1. Russia won the most medals.

2. No Russian tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

When they were done, the Russians went on to cheat the Paralympics for good measure.

That, of course, got the IOC to “ban” Russia from future Olympics, but that’s true only if you believe having hundreds of Russian athletes competing for the “Russian Olympic Committee” and not “Russia” is a distinction with a difference.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be at Friday’s Opening Ceremony in Beijing to cheer on his delegation and beam images of defiance against, and victory over, IOC sanctions back to Moscow. In 2014, he used the Sochi Olympics Games to rally national pride. Then he invaded Ukraine. He appears poised to do it again this time.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 01: Thomas Bach (L), President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gives gifts to staff members of a restaurant as he visits a restaurant in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games village, ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games on February 1, 2022, in Beijing, China. (Photo by Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images)
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), gives gifts to staff members of a restaurant as he visits a restaurant in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games village, ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. (Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images)

These are the Olympics of Jacque Rogge and Thomas Bach, IOC presidents past and present. This is what they’ve wrought, this is what they've bought, this is what they’ve turned this into.

They allowed the Games to get so expensive, the bid process so rigged, the concept of the Olympics so toxic and distant from its once high-minded ideal that they’ve done the near impossible: they created an Olympics that Olympians don’t want to be at.

Oh, the athletes would like to compete, but only in a place that will treat them with respect and fairness, not sift through their emails or put them in an isolation center whether they are contagious or not.

What the hell is this, Beijing 2022, a Winter Games where smog but not snowflakes fill the sky — virtually all the snow is man-made, the aquifers be damned and drained?

It’s what happens when the Olympics become so pernicious that perfectly legitimate places such as Oslo, Norway, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, scrap their bids so they won’t lose to bribes and kickbacks. That left only two cities willing to get into business with the IOC in 2022: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, a fellow dictatorship that proudly billed itself as the “world’s largest landlocked country.”

So now you get this, COVID not as a burden for the Chinese but an opportunity to oppress foreigners and propagandize to its suffering people. It’s a chance to reinforce that the government shall be obeyed at all costs so it can continue to protect. Locking figure skaters behind walls and fences makes locking down cities seem sensible. Have everyone succumb to ridiculous gestures such as spraying sanitizer on the streets and it all becomes a show.

Just like in Sochi, this has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with government power and favored contractor graft.

Bach, who clinked Champagne glasses with Putin back in 2014, will just serve as a smiling Western puppet of legitimacy since the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and others engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” and won’t participate in the photo op.

“It’s crystal clear that the Chinese government is going to use these Olympic Games to show its own population that it has won the international community’s respect and recognition,” said William Nee of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “But, of course, this is problematic because the Chinese government is carrying out crimes against humanity.

“The IOC should never have awarded the Olympic Games, and the glory that goes with it, to a country whose human rights problems are getting progressively more severe every year.”

In the far northwest of China there are accusations of slave labor and genocide. In the southeast, a national security invasion of Hong Kong. And then there is the jailing and torture of dissidents, critics and journalists everywhere else.

The athletes are uncertain whether speaking out about such things will help, hurt or just land them a positive COVID test on the eve of competition.

Bach and his cronies? They are fine with it. They are always fine with it. There’s a five-star hotel suite to sleep in. Blind eyes come cheap at the IOC.

For the athletes, it’s another story. They speak of the fear of the tests, the isolation of isolation or the uncertainty of being in a place where fake is real and real is fake.

They just want to ski or skate or slide, not serve as tools for oppression and violence. They just want to challenge themselves against the best of the world, not wind up as pawns that strengthen the grips of government.

They just want to enjoy the moment they worked their lives for, not have to guard against the host nation draining their bank account.

They just wanted the Olympics.

Instead the Olympics gave them this.