Should Canada take a pass on the 2022 Chinese Olympic Winter Games ?

“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”  (Article 2 of the Olympic Charter)

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 10th, 2021


There is an open letter signed by parliamentarians from all of Canada’s political parties, indigenous leaders and human rights organizations demanding that, given China’s record of human rights abuses, the 2022 Olympic Winter Games must be relocated away from China.

Those abuses are so significant that the former and current US governments have labelled China’s actions with its minority Uighur population as genocide.


Hitler hijacked the 1936 Olympic Games – would China do the same in 2022

Not relocating the games would be an unfortunate case of history repeating itself.  The 1936 Olympics were hijacked by Adolf Hitler.  Opponents of the Berlin games argued that allowing the Nazi regime to host the games would just embolden Hitler and allow him a propaganda victory.  Showcasing the international games would demonstrate to the German people that the rest of the world was OK with his policies of second class citizenship, ethnic cleansing and ultimately genocide (eventually) for Germany’s Jewish population.

In addition to the Canadian effort, there is group of 180 international human rights associations calling for a complete boycott of the games.  Boycotts are problematic, as history has shown, and they rarely work.   For example, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan most western nations boycotted the 1980 Olympics which were being held in Moscow.  The games still went ahead; the Soviets continued to occupy Afghanistan for a decade thereafter; and the western athletes, whose careers were on the line, suffered the most.

coal China

Coal being shoveled off rail cars in China for use in generating plants

There is a long list of grievances which China’s president for life, Xi Jinping, has been ramping up over recent years.  Of course China has a terrible human rights record with respect to its treatment of the Uighur, Falun Gong, Hong Kong and Tibetan populations.   China has also replaced the US as the leading source of climate change emissions, and despite participating in the Paris climate agreement, the country is building more new coal burning power plants than the rest of the world combined.

The nation has been developing its military at break neck speed.  And with its now powerful navy has claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea which puts it on a collision course with any number of it neighbours and the USA.   And of course there is a long simmering cold war with India over their mountainous shared border.

China has threatened war and forced occupation of Taiwan, an island of 24 million people with a democratic government, and which has been independent since 1949.  And its history before that, except for a brief period post WWII, had been as a colony of Japan.  The USA may have no formal security treaty with Taiwan but has 30,000 troops stationed there.   So it is doubtful that the US would stand by and allow the Chinese to invade without a fight.

China wet market

Patrons at a wet market in Wuhan, China

It has been a year since we first heard of COVID, but World Health Organization (WHO) inspectors have finally been allowed to visit the birthplace of the virus which caused COVID 19.  Though, nobody really expects them to discover how this pandemic actually got started.  Chinese officials have sanitized the wet (seafood) market which they claim have been location zero.  And all of the Chinese citizens or officials who could have shed light on the situation have either been kept out of sight or been velcro-lipped.

The theories propagated by Chinese authorities are that the virus arrived in Wuhan aboard a load of American frozen food or that SARS-CoV-2 originated from a bat virus which transited through an infected pangolin to complete a zoonotic leap into the respiratory tract of an unsuspecting shopper in Wuhan’s extensive wet market.

But neither theory holds water.  For one thing neither bats nor pangolins were on sale at the Wuhan wet market at the time.  The closest candidate bat would have been a 7 hour train ride away but was probably too busy hanging upside down in its bat cave to make the journey.

Another theory, once advanced by former president Donald Trump, and largely dismissed because of that, is that there was an accidental leakage of the virus from the Wuhan Virology Laboratory.  Located just up the street from the wet market, this is China’s only Level 4 bio-safety laboratory with a mandate to study and experiment with these kinds of viruses.   And located behind its walls is the greatest collection of dangerous bat viruses ever assembled in one place.

The Chinese obviously deny this lab leak theory.  And the team of visiting WHO inspectors say it’s a long shot.  But this would not be the first time that WHO has been pressured by the Chinese.  And given the lack of transparency and all the secrecy, can one be sure all the inspectors have seen is a really thorough cover-up of the evidence?

For Canada there is another reason to avoid the games in China. Just ask our two Michaels who have been held in miserable captivity for over two years.  Their crimes were that they were valuable hostages which China’s strongman thought would make good trading fare for their Huawei executive whom we, in turn, continue to detain.   Australia has recently updated its travel advice for China to warn that authorities have detained foreigners on alleged national security grounds and that Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention.

Olympics - Canada

The Canadian Olympic Team at Winter Olympic Games

The choice for Canada is pretty clear.  We need to work with other nations to convince the international Olympic committee to either cancel the games or shift the location to a more appropriate venue in keeping with the mandate, goals and the spirit of the Olympics.  Unless that happens Canada should boycott the games in Beijing and seek alternate venues and exhibitions for our athletes.

The last thing Canadians need to see on their television sets next February are our proud athletes marching through Beijing sporting a large maple leaf flag as they pass by prison cell holding one of our Michaels.

As a postscript China is now claiming it will sanction any nation which boycotts the games.  Seriously?

What would they do if the games are moved to a more acceptable location?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office.


Background links:

About the Olympics –    Olympic Charter –     Wuhan Lab

A Lab Leak –     Was it the Lab –     More Lab Leaks

US and Wuhan Lab –     A Leak? –    Move the Games – 

Human Rights Groups –     All Parties Call for Moving Olympics – 



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9 comments to Should Canada take a pass on the 2022 Chinese Olympic Winter Games ?

  • Excellent post. Yes, the games should be boycotted at the very least. Preferably, they will be moved. At the same time I think it’s fair to say that for most people the Olympic Games are a matter of Who?, What? within a few days after their close.

  • bill

    Does anybody really think the rest of the world would give a damn if Canada boycotted the games?

  • William Boyd

    Given the continued uncertainties with regard to the current pandemic and the resultant astronomical costs, are the Games truly needed?

    Yeah, I know that the purpose of the Games, the World Series, the Superbowl, et al. is entertainment but only secondarily to selling products. So, it would appear unlikely the Games will go away. So, how about scaling them back, particularly the short time-span required for any new host to pull it off.

    Thanks for the suggestion, though. Human rights ought to be our guiding light.


  • perryb

    If the IOC had any spine it would move the games to another readily available location. But that would require this club of princes, sultans, and various other toffs to give up their perks, entitlements and bribes. The demands they place on the host country for first class accommodations, transportation, receptions, parties, etc are legion. Canada should be gathering support to put pressure on the IOC, not its own athletes. Unless of course our own IOC reps also enjoy the club privileges too much.

  • Karl Rabl

    Yes they should not attend at all

  • Gary

    Hitler did not “highjack” the 1936 Olympics; whatever you mean by that expression. They had been awarded sometime in advance in the usual fashion and then the Nazis came to power. Hitler was not interested in the games at the beginning. He was persuaded by Goebbels and others to use them to try highlight Nazism and the superiority of German race. We all know how that ended up biting him in the ass.

    However, it was the Germans who set the blueprint for all subsequent Olympic games: the big national spectacle that overtakes the non-political goodwill of international sports. With the advent of television broadcasting, it is more of a TV spectacular.

    In fact, that is what the athletes in less mainstream sports will tell you. It is their chance to showcase their sports to a world-wide television audience that is the most appealing. Most, if not all, international sports have a “world competition” for individual or team supremacy. They just lack the big audience the Olympics usually commands.

    I don’t think you should “take the games” away from any country. If you don’t like the country, just don’t show up.

  • Hans Jacobs

    Ray, Thank you for a wonderful article.
    I might add that China’s interest in taking over Taiwan is probably largely motivated by the fact that Taiwan is one of the world’s largest computer chip manufacturers.

  • Mike

    Excellent point Ray.

    The games should be moved. Full stop. Period. The actions of China need to be put in their place and supporting China’s credibility by allowing the games to proceed would be an international diplomacy failure. The IOC has shown too many times it is all about $ and perks for its leaders so countries will need to exert significant pressure quickly to get the location changed before they can claim that its too late to move them.

  • Fred Pritchard

    Canada should boycott the games as Canadians are not safe in China.