If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve most likely been bombarded with news about the standoff in Ukraine, but in between the cracks, you may have noticed that the Beijing winter Olympics are in full swing. Considering the public image China created these last few years for foreign audiences, it comes as no surprise that these Olympics were not short of tense moments relating to China and the Olympics.

First, let’s quickly go over the numerous polemics surrounding China, that you have probably heard of before. China is an authoritarian one-party regime that has a painful grip on the everyday lives of its citizens. From propaganda to extreme censorship & mass surveillance, and even a dystopian social credits system that punishes even the most innocuous perceived stepping out of line. Another thing that has grabbed headlines recently has been the genocide of the Uyghur ethnic minority in the country’s western regions, where an ethnic group is systematically being eradicated through death camps and forced “re-education”, while Uyghur women are sterilized so they cannot produce Uyghur offspring, all of this being ignored or addressed in a lukewarm manner by governments and businesses worldwide. There is also the aggressive manner in which the Chinese government handles Hong Kong and Taiwan. While Taiwan has proven to be mostly sabre-rattling, the CCP has crushed any pretence that Hong Kong is an autonomous and democratic region of China. Finally, there is the issue of China covering up how Covid ravaged the country. They silenced the whistleblower that brought the virus to the public eye and accused the government of covering up the virus’ origins. They also drastically undercounted the number of cases in China. These and more are plenty of background reasons why we should not be pleased with this year’s winter Olympics taking place in Beijing.

However, the controversies do not stop there. Aside from everything mentioned above to issues related to this year’s edition of the winter Olympics, this has been confirmed to be quite a contentious event. The most controversial of which is the case of 15-year-old Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva, who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug yet was allowed to participate in the Olympics finals. This was considered extremely lenient compared to the black US track athlete barred from competing in the Tokyo Olympics for smoking cannabis. There were also raised eyebrows over the location itself, as Beijing is not a naturally snowy place, and consequently, artificial competing facilities had to be created, which many athletes complained about as it did not prove to be adequate substitutes for real mountains and snow. The event was a “covid-free” zone, however, it revealed that the restrictions were so harsh that athletes were isolated and alone, which led to anxiety attacks and mental breakdowns. There are innumerable other controversies, such as many athletes being advised to take burner devices with them instead of their regular technology due to fears of Chinese state surveillance and worries that temperature standards would not be respected.

These developments certainly create a valid conversation about countries whitewashing their public opinion by hosting important international events in the hopes of creating a kinder global portrayal. The trend appears to be progressively common, with Russia having hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and Qatar set to do the same later this year. It is an increasingly global phenomenon, and we as ordinary citizens must strive to look at this from a critical angle and see through these facades. Only when our eyes and ears open, are we truly free.

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