Beijing Games will showcase China's abilities, but also authoritarian leanings

Chongli railway bullet train connects the Olympic mountain clusters of Zhangjaikou and Yanqing with BeijingGETTY IMAGES

With the Beijing Games set to begin on Feb. 4, China "has delivered," as the country under President Xi Jinping "has plowed through the obstacles that once made Beijing’s bid seem a long shot, and faced down new ones, including an unending pandemic and mounting international concern over its authoritarian behavior," according to Myers, Bradsher & Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. As in '08, the '22 Olympics are a "showcase of the country’s achievements," only now, "it is a very different country." China "no longer needs to prove its standing on the world stage; instead, it wants to proclaim the sweeping vision of a more prosperous, more confident nation." Where the government "once sought to mollify its critics to make the Games a success, today it defies them." Xi said these Games “will not only enhance our confidence in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” they also will “show a good image of our country and demonstrate our nation’s commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind.” Myers, Bradsher and Panja noted as Xi promised, the "toxic air that once choked Beijing has largely, if not entirely, given way to blue skies." High-speed railways have "slashed the trip from Beijing to the most distant venues from four hours to one." China built water pipelines to "feed a phalanx of snow-making machines." Officials this week "claimed the entire Games would be 'fully carbon neutral.'" A dozen other Chinese cities are "already angling" for the '36 Summer Games (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).

AUTHORITY FIGURES: In Toronto, Bruce Arthur wrote the Beijing Games appear to be "every inch the authoritarian Olympics." They are "already being defined by white-knuckle testing policies, suspicious spyware, athlete intimidation, and IOC complicity" (TORONTO STAR, 1/21). In Boston, John Powers noted when Beijing was selected as host in '15, the alternative was Almaty, Kazakhstan. IOC President Thomas Bach at the time said, “It is really a safe choice. We know China will deliver on its promises.” But in fact, the choice of Beijing "may be the least safe and most controversial in history." Despite that, Beijing has "created an exceptional network of venues, both repurposed and new." Amid the "worries and strictures" about COVID, there will be Olympics, "but not the impeccably orchestrated, extraordinary ones like those that Beijing carried off in 2008 and that set the five-ringed standard going forward" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21).

SEEN, NOT HEARD: The WASHINGTON POST Editorial Board wrote under the header, "China has a message for Winter Olympic athletes: Shut up and ski." The "complicity of U.S. and other corporations sponsoring" the Games has become "much harder to defend." The IOC has promised that, starting in '24, it "will take greater account of potential host nations’ human rights records; it’s an easy promise, since Western democracies have already been awarded the Games through 2028." Meanwhile, Bach "continues to inveigh hypocritically against the 'politicization' of the Games." In reality, the '22 Games "shape up as yet another opportunity for China to further its paramount political goal: forcing the world to see it as the Communist Party prefers, not as it really is" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/22).

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