Olympic athletes, soccer World Cup stars question hosts’ human rights

The Beijing Winter Olympics are only three weeks away, but the focus is not on skiing or snowboarding. He has been on sports wash.

It’s the term human rights activists use to describe the mutual embrace between international sport and authoritarian states like China. Events such as the Olympics, they say, soften the image of a regime that has eradicated democracy in Hong Kong, sentenced Muslim Uyghurs to “re-education” camps and suppressed any sign of citizen dissent.

Why we wrote this

The Winter Olympics in Beijing and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will restore the international image of human rights violators. Athletes brave their anger to speak out.

Sport’s governing bodies, such as football’s FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, are reluctant to speak out, but the athletes themselves are beginning to speak up.

An American skater, Timothy LeDuc, spoke last week about what he called “horrific human rights abuses” in China; England football players will be briefed by Amnesty International before deciding whether to stage protests during November’s World Cup in Qatar, a notorious human rights abuser; and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton said last month he did not feel “comfortable” racing in Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are banned. He wore a rainbow-decorated helmet while running.

These may be small steps, but it’s more than international sports bureaucrats have managed.

London

The 24th Winter Olympics are only three weeks away, but the focus is not on skiing or snowboarding. Let’s go sports wash.

It’s the term human rights advocates use to criticize the mutual embrace between international sport and authoritarian states such as the host of next month’s Olympics, China.

They argue the Games, with their cuddly panda logo, will soften the image of a government that has stifled democracy in Hong Kong, sentenced Muslim Uyghurs to “re-education” camps and tightened control over its citizens.

Why we wrote this

The Winter Olympics in Beijing and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will restore the international image of human rights violators. Athletes brave their anger to speak out.

None of this will prevent the Games from taking place. But the larger question shows no signs of going away: Are international sports organizations allowing human rights abusers to “reshape their image as glamorous sports hosts,” in the words of a recent report by Human Rights Watch? .

In fact, he is likely to resurface when the Gulf state of Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup in November.

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