Beijing Winter Olympics Begin in a Covid Bubble, and a Human Rights Cloud

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YANQING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 02: Razor wire sits atop Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic branding at Yanqing Railway Station on February 2, 2022 in Yanqing, China. With just a few days to go until the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese authorities are making final preparations to try and ensure a successful Games amid the continuing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

This year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, set to kick off on Friday, have been called “the most complex Games ever” by the Wall Street Journal. The Los Angeles Times dubs them “the feel guilty Games.” The event is opening amid intense Covid-19 restrictions and concerns over Chinese human rights violations, like the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims and jailing of activists. Those have prompted President Biden to boycott the Games, though U.S. athletes are still competing. The head of the International Olympic Committee said last month that the Games “must be beyond all political disputes.” But as Georgetown University professor Victor Cha points out, the Olympics have always been political. He joins us to talk about the history of bans and boycotts surrounding the Games, and how China and the US are navigating this year’s event.


Victor Cha , Vice Dean and Professor of Government, Georgetown University, former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. Author of "Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport."