But most seem to think that an athletic boycott would be ineffective and unfair. “It hasn’t worked historically, and I don’t imagine China is super susceptible to this kind of pressure,” David Lunt, a sports historian at Southern Utah University, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I think the consensus is it mostly hurts the athletes who trained so hard, especially since it’s eleven every four years. Most people’s peaks are only so long.”
What’s more, Derek Robertson reports for Politico that the World Uyghur Congress — the international organization representing the Muslim ethnic group — hasn’t campaigned for an athletic boycott, preferring that competitors use the Games as a platform to raise awareness in the style of American athletes ‘Black Lives Matter advocacy.
But such advocacy could prove difficult. Aside from the pressure the IOC and its sponsors are applying to athletes to avoid controversy, a representative of China’s Olympic organizing committee has warned that athletes who protest will face “certain punishment.” The disappearance last fall of Peng Shuai, a professional Chinese tennis player and former Olympian, after she accused a top political official of coercing her into a sexual relationship, also looms large. (Peng has recently re-emerged.)
“There’s a lot of us athletes who are super upset about the genocide in China,” an Olympic snowboarder, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told Yahoo News. “But we’re struggling to figure out, what can we do?” she said, adding, “The IOC is the group that picks the host country.”
following the money
Collectively, the top 13 corporate Olympic sponsors have contracts with the IOC that add up to more than $1 billion. Activists have pressured these companies to withdraw their support, but so far, none have done so, and only four — Omega, Intel, Airbnb and Procter & Gamble — have responded to requests from The Times for comment.
“These companies stood publicly for justice after George Floyd’s murder and months of self-examination over race in America,” The Times’s Streeter writes. “But with rare exception, when pressed by lawmakers on an issue far from American shores in a country possessing a tantalizing bonanza of customers, their bold stances for justice wilted with the wind.”
Broadcasting companies also have responsibility — and leverage. Broadcasting fees account for 73 percent of the revenue that the International Olympic Committee receives; NBC alone has paid $7.75 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2032.