The Olympics have always been controversial
The 2022 Beijing Olympics have been very controversial and there has been a lot of criticism on how China is using the games to cover up their major issues. However, this has always been the case with the Olympics so it may be time to examine how they have historically been problematic.
Far before these Olympics began, the U.S. and several other countries announced that they were participating in a diplomatic boycott against the Olympics due to human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. While athletes from all the boycotting nations are still attending, no government or Olympic officials are attending.
Additionally, many people have criticized how China is using the games to distract from its human rights issues. It is important to recognize however, that this is the case with a lot of countries and the Olympics serve the same purpose: to distract from terrible issues plaguing the country in question’s citizens.
The Olympics are known for glamorizing the countries they take place in and ignoring or tokenizing the marginalized identities facing human rights abuses everyday there.
In 2016, the Summer Olympics were held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. In the years leading up to that, Indigenous activists were being killed over land conflicts. Brazil’s indigenous population still struggles with ongoing state violence and land conflict today.
The same goes for Australia where the 2000 Summer Games were held, which continues to struggle with human rights abuses against its Indigenous population.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for any colonized land like Canada and the U.S. both of which’s indigenous populations are struggling with land theft from companies building oil pipelines as well as Indigenous women being murdered and going missing in large numbers.
The Olympics make these countries seem great while covering up the violence that happens there.
The Olympics don’t just cover up marginalized people in a media sense, the games inevitably lead to the displacement of thousands of people, usually low income and minorities. With countries having to build new facilities for the game, this leads families to be evicted and left with nowhere to go.
This was the case in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games where over 6,000 families were displaced. This disrupted people’s lives in so many ways, breaking up their community, isolating them on the outskirts of the city where there was less employment and little transportation to get to city jobs.
The 1996 Atlanta Summer Games also led to thousands of people, most of which were Black, being displaced and even being arrested for being homeless. Displacement also happened in the 2012 London Summer Games as well with East London residents being evicted so that their building could be torn down to build facilities.
Whenever the Olympics happen, poor people, usually minorities, are displaced so that cities can build billion dollar stadiums that they often never use again. People lose their homes and the buildings that replace them stand empty for years to come.
This isn’t okay and its rarely acknowledged whenever the Olympics come around. That’s why there have been many movements to stop the Olympics happening in their cities such as the successful No Boston 2024 organization.
During the Olympics in Tokyo last summer, there were protests by Japanese citizens, the vast majority of whom didn’t want the games to happen. There were worries of medical resources being used up for the Olympics, especially when the city was in a state of emergency over COVID-19 and cases continued going up during the games.
There are some benefits to the Olympics in that it increases tourism revenue and creates temporary jobs, but when it hurts the people actually living in the city, it’s not worth it.
A lot of the money used in the Olympics is taxpayer money. It is just downright wrong for it to be used to displace residents, endanger communities with COVID-19 outbreaks, build facilities that may never be used again for that community and to do it all with the taxes from that community.
The Olympics are a fun event that people love to watch, but they have a dark history of distracting from human rights abuses while also tearing up marginalized communities on taxpayer dollars.
It’s great that some people are criticizing this year’s games but it’s important to realize the problems with the Olympics are systematic and aren’t going away when it takes place in the next country.
There needs to be a real conversation had on the horrible consequences of the Olympics and what can be done to stop them.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]