Is a 2022 Olympic boycott over China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims a possibility?

I’m a big track fan, which is why one of my all-time favorite sports memories is watching from a nose-bleed seat at the Los Angeles Coliseum as Britain’s Sebastian Coe won the 1984 men’s 1,500-meter Olympic finals. But I also recall my excitement being dampened just a tad by knowing that Coe’s win was diminished by the absence that day of world-class Soviet bloc runners.

You’ll remember that President Jimmy Carter had pulled the United States out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (sadly, almost 40 years later Afghanistan remains an open-ended U.S. foreign policy concern). More than 60 other nations joined the U.S.-led boycott.

As payback, the USSR pulled its athletes out of the following Summer Olympics, the Los Angeles games. More than a dozen other communist nations joined that boycott, hence the absence of many quality athletes and, in my mind, the need for an asterisk next to Coe’ name. (Ironically, Coe also won the 1,500 meters in 1980, which probably warrants a second asterisk.)

Jump forward to the present, which finds the U.S. and Russia, the rotting core of the old USSR, still at odds. But unlike the 1980s, China — then just a hint of the economic powerhouse it would become — is arguably as bad an actor today and at least equally as problematic for the U.S.

Guess what? The 2022 Winter Olympics is scheduled for China.

Given how horribly Beijing has persecuted its Muslim Uighur minority (plus the Tibetan Buddhists, underground Christian churches, and others, including ordinary citizens who disagree to any degree with the government’s heavy-handed policies), might another boycott of Olympic proportions be due?


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