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Politics, money, and COVID at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 12: A man takes a photo of a woman as she signs a '2022' poster at an event held by the organizing committee of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics for international media at their headquarters at Shougang on April 12, 2021 in Beijing, China. The committee recently held test events at several venues ahead of the Winter Games set to open February 4, 2022.  (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 12: A man takes a photo of a woman as she signs a '2022' poster at an event held by the organizing committee of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics for international media at their headquarters at Shougang on April 12, 2021 in Beijing, China. The committee recently held test events at several venues ahead of the Winter Games set to open February 4, 2022. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing last Friday. Nearly 3,000 athletes traveled from around the globe to represent their nations in the Chinese capital. But it’s not all fun and games.

More than 200 human rights groups are boycotting the Olympics over China’s exploitation of its Uighur population. In addition, the U.S., U.K., Canada, and several European nations did not send their diplomatic delegations:

“We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in December 2021. “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply cannot do that.”

The opening ceremonies have already sparked controversy. A Uyghur athlete was among the two final torchbearers delivering the Olympic flame for China. 

China is also battling the spread of COVID-19. It’s implemented mandatory daily COVID screenings, a special fleet of taxis to shuttle athletes and personnel, and even meal-serving robots. 

These measures aren’t cheap. Neither is hosting the Olympics itself. The games will run at least $3.9 billion according to Chinese state run media. An Insider investigation found significantly higher costs when major infrastructure projects are included.

An IPSOS poll released earlier this month found 80% of respondents support the games within China, despite the threat of COVID-19 looming.

We assemble a panel of experts to discuss politics, finances, and COVID concerns at this year’s winter games.

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