Beijing Olympics Have Turned Into A PR Disaster
Beijing Olympics Have Turned Into A PR Disaster
It’s safe to say that the Beijing Olympics have not gone the way the IOC, or China, or Russia, or NBC has wanted them to go.
The 2022 Beijing Olympics has been mired in controversy since before it started, thanks to COVID-19, the obvious crackdown by Chinese Olympic Committee authorities on tennis player Peng Shuai, and the last-minute warning by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to athletes to not piss off the Chinese dictatorship by saying anything political. Why was the United States participating, again?
Oh right, because there was this misguided notion that the “athletes who have been training all their lives to compete in the Olympics shouldn’t be punished.” You know, sometimes bad things just happen. Like attempted genocide of an ethnic minority, and a worldwide pandemic that, if not intentionally released, was intentionally covered up until it was too late. Sometimes, corrupt organizations and governments need to be forced to take responsibility for their crappy decisions. Hint, hint, International Olympic Committee.
Nowhere has the issue of corruption and abuse been more vividly on display during the Beijing Olympics than during the women’s figure skating competition. Russia is technically banned from competing in the Beijing Olympics due to their doping scandals during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped them from fielding a team under the “Russian Olympic Committee” banner. This is the pinnacle of the “punish the country, not the athletes” theory, and how did it turn out this year? With a massive scandal that has commentators using words like “child abuse.”
Fifteen year old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was seen as a gold medal favorite. However, a positive drug test for a heart medication in December was only now released by a Swedish lab (who blamed the delay on a COVID outbreak), which immediately should have disqualified Valieva. Her excuse of “I accidentally might have taken my grandfather’s heart medication” fell apart when it was revealed that there were TWO OTHER heart drugs in her system, along with the banned one. And yet, because she is fifteen, the IOC claimed that she was a “protected person” and had to accept the ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which said that Valieva should be allowed to compete. Former American Olympic athletes were furious at the decision – but honestly, what did they expect from the IOC? Morals?
The IOC announced that if Valieva medaled, there would be no ceremony because they didn’t want to have to take medals away later. Wow, talk about a moral stance. And under all that pressure, fifteen-year-old Valieva cracked.
As it turned out, Valieva stumbled in her free skate, repeatedly, and dropped off the podium altogether. It meant the ceremony could go on, with Valieva’s Russian Olympic Committee teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, securing gold and silver, and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, taking the bronze.”
All good then, right? Hardly. It was a mess.”
Valieva was in pieces as soon as she stepped off the rink and was met by her ever-controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze. Shcherbakova, the winner, seemed unsure if she could celebrate. Trusova, shocked she didn’t win gold, raged off to the side.”
“I hate this sport,” Trusova said.”
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 18, 2022
And while IOC President Thomas Bach was apparently “disturbed” by the whole thing, nothing is going to change. Russia will still chew up, drug up, and spit out teen athletes to do their bidding for every Olympics. Valieva went home and was greeted by a cheering crowd. Will she be back in four years? Who knows.
Meanwhile, Chinese darling Eileen Gu has attracted more attention for her flip-flopping loyalties. Remember that she is American-born, but is staying silent on whether or not she gave up her American citizenship to compete for China in the Beijing Olympics. Well, she might be a favorite of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, but she isn’t connecting with the average Chinese person on the street.
No sooner had Gu won her first medal, a surprise gold in the freestyle skiing big air event, than one viral online article posed a pointed question in its headline—“What does Eileen Gu’s success have to do with ordinary people?”—that appeared to strike a chord with readers, and to have unnerved government censors.”
The article, published on China’s ubiquitous WeChat messaging app by an education-focused blog widely followed by elite Chinese parents called Nuli Shehui—loosely translated as “Slave Society”—pointed out the lack of any concrete evidence to show that Gu had in fact renounced her U.S. citizenship, and attributed Gu’s success to her unique upbringing, which combined the freedom and well-rounded education offered by the U.S. with the rigors of China’s examination-oriented system.”
While the Chinese censors are working to keep critical stories off the internet, it’s getting harder when the criticism isn’t against the Chinese government, but against Gu herself, for being a privileged rich girl competing in an expensive sport.
Zhang Cailing, a blogger with more than 140,000 followers on Xiaohongshu, a platform that is often likened to Instagram, directly addressed the anxiety some Chinese parents feel when comparing themselves to the Olympian’s mother, Yan Gu—a Beijing-born, U.S.-educated former Wall Street trader and venture capitalist, credited with overseeing Gu’s trans-Pacific upbringing.”
“Do you have the money to send your daughter to private school? Do you have the time to drive eight hours on weekends to take her skiing? If she falls, do you have the money to pay for such expensive physiotherapy?” Zhang said in her video, which was liked 32,000 times. Comparing Gu’s rarefied upbringing to those of many in China, Zhang concluded: “We belong to different worlds.”
In another widely viewed video, Chen Xiaoyu, a popular cultural commentator, declared herself an admirer of Gu, but also argued the athlete shouldn’t be held up as a model for female success in China, saying that the resources available to Gu weren’t attainable for most people.”
“Her success story is more like that of a U.S. middle-class, second-generation immigrant, not a homegrown China feminist story,” Chen said in a video liked nearly 50,000 times on Xiaohongshu.”
Gu hasn’t helped the situation, either. When asked on Instagram why she gets to have an Instagram account (banned in China), Gu commented that “anyone can download a VPN” – something that is actually very illegal in China. Whoops.
And her coyness in trying to avoid the citizenship question has caught everyone’s attention now. Bill Maher let her have it on his show on Friday night.
We knew that were shithole countries, but who knew there was a shithole superpower? But. I’m sure you’ve heard about American citizen Eileen Gu, the beautiful model influencer and now Gold Medal-winning skier who was born and raised here in America, but who chose to ski in the Olympics for China. Cool, huh? Is it? Is that cool now, to choose to represent a totalitarian police state over America?”
The Olympics pretends to only be about sports, but of course, the games have always been a bit of a proxy war for which country has the best system. And by choosing Team China, Eileen Gu became a living symbol of China’s triumph over the West, which wouldn’t bother me so much if I thought China had triumphed over us in the ways that really matter. But they haven’t.”
The IOC, of course, doesn’t care how the Beijing Olympics turn out or how many Uyghurs are in concentration camps – so long as they can keep cashing their checks. And too bad for NBC, because they paid up big time to the Olympics in order to get the exclusive rights to something… no one wants to watch. The drama at the women’s figure skating made for some good soap opera TV, and then everyone turned it off again.
The Beijing Olympics turned into a PR and ratings disaster, and thanks to the willfully blind check-cashing of the IOC, it’s not going to get corrected or stopped until countries with a conscience stop participating in this farce. Which will – sadly – likely never happen.