US gives China the cold shoulder with 2022 Winter Olympics boycott

Chloe Craft

For the first time in 42 years, the U.S. has announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The decision was announced by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at a White House press briefing on Monday, citing a history of human rights violations by the Chinese government as the justification for the boycott.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki announces the boycott. (Photo courtesy of Reuters/Leah Millis)

Unlike former President Jimmy Carter’s total boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow on account of the Soviet Union hosting, American athletes will still be permitted to compete in the Games. However, official U.S. government representatives will not be accompanying the athletes to the Games in Beijing this coming February.

“[U.S. athletes] have our full support,” said Psaki, addressing the press at the White House briefing. “[But] we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

Regardless of this, many avid fans of the Winter Games and aspiring athletes find the absence of American diplomats unfair and claim it undermines the hard work and accomplishments of the more than 200 American athletes expected to compete in Beijing. Sophomore Olivia Villanova, a recreational skier and fan of the Games, expresses her disappointment upon learning the news. 

A Chinese police officer stands in front of a promotional poster for the Winter Games. (Photo courtesy of AP/Mark Schiefelbein)

“I love watching all parts of the Winter Olympics. It’s really cool, the things those athletes can do,” Villanova said. “But I think it’s not fair [to boycott it]. They worked really hard to get there. It almost feels like they’re being cheated, like they’re being underrepresented.”

Junior Lindsey Herbert, a snowboarder and fellow skier, agrees that the boycott undermines the success of American athletes and predicts they will respond negatively.

“After this [announcement], I think the athletes might speak up about how they think it’s unfair,” Herbert said. “But even if they were to speak up, I don’t think that would change anything, because [the U.S. administration] is so set in stone about what they want.”

Despite the growing concern over athletes’ support, many argue that the move is justified considering its context. The call to boycott rose in response to tentative international relationships between China and many western capitals, due to inhumane treatment of the Uyghur population, threats of military offense in Taiwan and ongoing oppression in Hong Kong.

Junior Ari Miller, also an avid skier, claims that the boycott is worth the possibility of disappointing athletes due to these factors.

The Chinese flag flies at the Olympic Tower in Beijing, already prepared to host in February. (Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlos Rawlins)

“​​I think there are arguments to both sides, but I think it’s a fair response overall,” Miller said. “I think at the end of the day it won’t affect China, but from a Western viewpoint, it’s definitely beneficial.”

Senior Lucy Ginis, a competitive synchronized skater, also notes that this issue is not one-sided.

“I understand where the U.S. is coming from in not wanting to support those things,” Ginis said. “It’s an interesting situation, and maybe the solution is that these countries shouldn’t be allowed to host the Olympics in the first place if they’re currently killing a lot of people and [doing] other really bad things.”

According to Ginis, moving forward as a cohesive country in the Olympics will be difficult considering the issue’s inherent controversy, and expected reactions will likely be split.

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claims the U.S. “will pay” for its decision. (Photo courtesy of AP/Andy Wong)

“I think that the reaction is going to be that a lot of people will be fairly upset,” Ginis said. “But I’m sure some people will also say that it’s not enough and that the athletes shouldn’t even compete at all. I almost agree with that. I feel like they should go all the way in or all the way out.”

So far, many U.S. allies have yet to follow suit, but the Chinese government has already expressed its disapproval of the situation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian issued the first official response from China to the Biden Administration’s decision at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The U.S. will pay for its wrongdoing,” said Lijian. “You can wait and see.” 

It is yet unclear what exactly Lijian is implying, and the Biden administration has yet to respond. Most U.S. allies have yet to react directly. The Games are set to begin on Feb. 4, where American athletes will compete without U.S. diplomatic representation.