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Why Are These Countries Boycotting the Olympics?

Published on January 10, 2022

View of the Olympics 5 rings logo against a blue sky

For years, people around the world have debated the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing. While some say the Games should be avoided completely as a statement against China’s human rights violations, others say this would be unfair to the athletes who have worked tirelessly to make their Olympic and Paralympic dreams happen for most of their lives.

Still others have suggested taking an alternative middle ground by forming a new human rights-themed team of athletes, stating this could be a way to champion human rights while still supporting athletes.    

Which Countries Boycotted the 2022 Olympics?

Recently, Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia joined forces in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, meaning they will not be sending officials to Beijing this winter. The athletes from these countries will still be competing in the Games. Other countries including New Zealand, Scotland, Lithuania and Estonia will also be boycotting the event.

The boycott comes in response to a slew of human rights violations that have allegedly been committed by the Chinese government, including the genocide of the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang, mass detentions, concentration camps and a residential school system designed to strip Tibetan people of their language and culture.

Why Canada Announced an Olympic and Paralympic Boycott

In December 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s decision to join the diplomatic boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, noting the government’s extreme concern over China’s multiple human rights violations.

“For the past many months, we’ve been in conversation with partners and allies around the world on the issue of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. As a country, indeed as many partners around the world, we are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government. That is why we are announcing today we will not be sending any diplomatic representatives to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter,” Trudeau said.

The countries taking part in the diplomatic boycott have suggested that they do not want this decision to take away from the hard work and commitment demonstrated by the athletes as they compete in the Games. Trudeau said Canada will continue to show its full support to the athletes competing in Beijing this winter, despite not sending any official representatives to the country.

“Our athletes have been training for years and are looking forward to compete [sic] at the highest level against athletes from around the world and they will continue to have all of our fullest support as they show the extraordinary success that Canada has at winter Olympic games,” he said.

What the Olympic & Paralympic Committees Say About It    

Hand holding small flag of the Olympics logo against a backdrop of the sunrise. Several countries have decided on an Olympic boycott.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) issued a joint statement about the boycott, noting that they respect and understand the government’s decision.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them. History has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change,” the statement reads from David Shoemaker, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General of the COC and Karen O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer of the COC.

“We also know the importance of Team Canada to Canadians, and we are committed to ensuring they can participate safely at the Games. Our athletes have a unique ability to inspire millions of Canadians of all ages, and billions around the world, while the Games foster increasingly important people-to-people connections.”

How Many Times Have Olympics Been Boycotted?

Throughout history, the Olympics have been boycotted a total of six times, with the most recent boycott happening at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will kick off Feb. 4th and end Feb. 20th, followed by the Paralympics from March 4th to 13th.

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.