It’s hard to find consensus these days, but everyone seems to agree that there was something rotten about the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. Not the athletes and the sporting events, of course; they trained their entire lives to compete, were as brilliant as ever and are not responsible for the decisions that led to such a cursed and corrupt event.
Athletes aside, just about everything else was horrible.
Condemnation came from all corners. Some called these the “Genocide Games.” Others the “Dystopian Olympics.” NBC’s ratings for the games were the lowest in televised Olympic history. The stunning 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics opening ceremony marked China’s coming out party on the world stage. The nightmare 2022 Olympics were just the opposite. Millions of Americans now have a clearer understanding of the threat posed by China, and — perhaps more importantly — it’s now clear to them that many powerful Americans seem to be playing for the other team.
The China-over-America phenomenon was personified by Eileen Gu, the amazing gold medal-winning freestyle skier who defected to compete for China after being raised in the U.S. Some American athletes switch to compete for other countries because it’s so hard to make the American team. That was not the case with Gu. She could have made any team. Gu had other motivations. She was well-paid for switching sides. With endorsement deals in place from many of China’s biggest companies, Gu will reportedly earn over $31 million this year, making her — a relative unknown until very recently — the third-highest-paid female athlete in the world. Gu is only 18, so it’s relatively easier to forgive her for selling out the country that gave her so many opportunities. The huge American brands that are doing essentially the same thing? Not so much.
For many years now, American companies have seen their growth tied more to the Chinese market than the more saturated domestic American consumer market. This has turned them into apologists for Beijing. As we’ve learned just how abusive the Chinese regime has become, and as China has grown more aggressive and confrontational with America in its foreign policy, it’s become increasingly difficult to watch American companies kowtow to the Chinese communists. These same companies spend millions lobbying in Washington, D.C. With their interests so clearly tied to Chinese growth, Americans are waking up to the influence these companies have over our government.
How much are major American companies willing to forgive to make money in China? The answer appears to be literally anything.
China is currently committing genocide against its minority Uyghur Muslim population. There is no legitimate debate about this anymore. Two hundred human rights organizations from countries around the world, and eight governmental bodies, including Canada, the U.S., Holland, the U.K., Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Belgium and France, have all declared that this genocide is occurring, often based on their independent channels of information, including numerous firsthand accounts by the victims.
The genocide in China has included reeducation camps, forced labor and forced sterilization. In the face of the overwhelming evidence, the NBC broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony portrayed China’s genocide as a debatable “he said, she said”-type matter. After laying out the allegation of genocide, NBC’s analyst followed with pure Chinese propaganda: “It has to be said that the Chinese government emphatically denies all of this. They say that accusations of genocide are the lie of the century.” While it’s true that China has made this claim, it’s equally true that there is almost no basis upon which to believe it. NBC did not make that clear. There is a lot of talk about misinformation these days, but twisting the facts to help a brutal dictatorship cover up for genocide is a new low.
NBC is not alone. The 13 “official worldwide partners” of the Chinese Olympics include American companies Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Visa. They each have huge profits to be made in China. They did not run many marketing campaigns for the U.S. audience touting their sponsorships of the Chinese games. Why? Because it’s shameful. They did, however, market their support widely in China.
The closest historic parallel to these Olympics was the 1936 games in Nazi Germany. Elisha Wiesel, the son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, discussed this with The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin: “We must all speak out. … I hope that the corporations which are broadcasting and sponsoring these Olympics — more specifically, the men and women of conscience who work at these corporations — will do whatever they can to back away from the credibility they bestow on a regime whose actions deserve global condemnation.” Despite the social stances these companies take domestically, they are silent about the abuses going on in China — too much money at stake.
Luckily, the Chinese government is doing their sponsors no favors. In addition to the genocide, the publicity from these games focused on the quashing of dissent on the ground, the threats to the athletes, the horrible conditions inside the Olympic village, the International Olympic Committee’s complicity in China’s silencing of Tennis star and sexual assault victim Peng Shuai, China’s “no cheering” rules, the hellish “smokestack” surroundings of the aerial events, the disastrous results of the Russian figure skating team’s abusive treatment of their 15-year-old star, the forced smiles from the poor Uyghur skier forced to light the Olympic torch and, of course, the fact that nobody was watching.
The Olympics are amazing: the best athletes in the world dueling it out on a country-versus-country basis. They have brought us Jesse Owens, the Miracle on Ice and the Jamaican bobsled team. It’s hard to screw up something that great. Yet, somehow, the world’s powers in 2022 pulled it off.