The Overshadowed Olympics

By Justin A. Greenberg, Associate Contributor
Photo: N509FZ

With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics wrapping up, I thought it would be a great time to look back at the Olympics and the many issues which plagued it. The Olympics are meant to be a friendly competition in which the world competes for medals and praise. It is supposed to be the best athletes in the world proudly representing their countries, in a bid to link the world together in a joint event. What happens if the world does not want to link together? The Olympics ended on February 20th with a closing ceremony demonstrating the culture of Beijing and an overall snowflake theme (Busetto 2022). The final results were somewhat confusing (which we will get more into later) due to the fact that Russia was banned from competing as a result of a previous doping incident. Instead, Russia was represented by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) – which came in second with 32 points. These 32 points are a combination of every Olympic event each country gets 3 points for gold, 2 for silver, and 1 for bronze and at the end you total each country’s points. If you are only considering countries which were represented, Norway was above and beyond the winner with a total of 37 points, with Germany’s 27 points following, and lastly Canada’s 26 points securing them third (IOC 2022). It is extremely strange that Russia was banned for doping but still sent athletes, one of which even doped. By allowing Russian athletes to compete it ruins the integrity of the Olympics and takes away from others achievements. Even though the Olympics happen every two years (counting summer + winter), there were only a few bright spots at this year’s Olympics. Some bright spots for the United States were Chloe Kim, who won gold (snowboarding) in back to back Olympics, Nathan Chen, who performed an amazing interpretation of Elton John’s Rocket Man and secured gold (figure skating), and on a much more emotional note, the legendary snowboard affectionately nicknamed The Flying Tomato”, Shaun White had his last Olympic run (Thorbecke 2022). Some global highlights included the men and women’s hockey tournaments – where Finland’s men’s team upset the ROC with a final score of 2-1, and the women’s tournament, where the two Olympic powerhouses (Canada and the US) competed against one another with Canada winning gold 3-2 (Greer 2022a; Greer 2022b). Sadly, that’s about it for highlights.

Starting off the list of issues regarding the recent Olympics is the condition in which the athletes were kept. They were kept in small rooms, had what some would not even call a gym, and were given horrid food (Whidden 2022). Additionally, during the Olympics the athletes were tracked constantly due to Covid-19, they were essentially checked into every location with software which kept track of their temperature and where they were, even though they were supposedly in a bubble. Alongside these living issues, one of the events had a huge scandal. This scandal sounds like it’s straight out of Euphoria, where 15 year old figure skater Kamila Valieva of the ROC committee tested positive for three banned substances. One of the substances appeared to be a heart affecting medicine which in the right circumstance can help increase endurance and give her a competitive edge (Macur and Keh 2022). This substance has been the cause of multiple bans in the past. What is important to the matter is that the ROC placed first in the team figure skating event. Currently, it is uncertain if they will keep gold (Macur and Keh 2022). Although this will not change the standing, these participants worked their whole lives for this moment and deserve the proper recognition and respect for their journey. Kamilia was also the favorite for the solo figure skating event in which she seemingly fell under pressure and did not finish on the podium. Another interesting aspect of this scandal is that Kamila is a minor, so “Coaches or others in her entourage found giving her a banned drug could face penalties under anti-doping rules, and under Russian law” (Macur and Keh 2022). These issues brought down the spirit and excitement of the Olympics. 

The previously mentioned issues pale in comparison to the controversy over the host country. With the Olympics representing unity and friendliness, it would make sense to host it in a place which upholds and is a shining example of these ideas, right? Sadly, the Olympic committee did not get the memo and hosted it in China – which has been suspected of violating human rights and holding forced labor camps. They have additionally been violating Taiwan’s airspace (BBC 2022). Although many athletes still participated, many countries refused to send officials such as the US, UK, Canada, “India, Australia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia,” with more countries’ officials avoiding the games but for other reasons (BBC 2022; Pereira 2022). The Olympics being hosted in a country with several alleged human rights abuses is an insult to that for which the games stand. It would not have been very hard to change location, there are multiple Olympic stadiums around the world that could have hosted the 2022 games. In addition to certain countries boycotting the Olympics, companies which spent millions of dollars on advertising rights to implement the Olympics into their marketing campaigns refused to do so. When a company who probably spent billions of dollars on advertising and partnerships rights and not uses them, you know there is something wrong. 

Justin Greenberg is a recent Binghamton Alumni. He was a philosophy, politics, and law major with a minor in medieval studies. Justin grew up in Marlboro, NJ and spent a lot of time hiking, swimming, and reading. He specializes in global affairs and the climate crisis.


References 

“Beijing Winter Olympics boycott: Why are the Games so controversial?” 2022. BBC News, February 4. https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-59644043.

Busetto, Arielle. 2022. “Beijing 2022 Olympics Closing Ceremony Ends On Minimalistic ‘Snowflake’ Theme.” JAPAN Forward, February 21. https://japan-forward.com/beijing-2022-olympics-closing-ceremony-ends-on-minimalistic-snowflake-theme/.

Greer, Jorden. 2022a. “Finland vs. ROC final score, results: Finland wins first Olympic gold in men’s hockey with 2-1 victory.” Sporting News Canada, February 20. https://www.sportingnews.com/ca/olympics/news/finland-roc-live-score-highlights-2022-olympics/rexwlw2a1nyv2hmtyf5ngrod (February 23, 2022).

Greer, Jorden. 2022b. “USA vs. Canada final score, results: Marie-Philip Poulin leads Canadians to 3-2 victory in gold-medal game” Sporting News, February 17. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/olympics/news/usa-canada-live-score-highlights-2022-olympics/hxpztmsbpmgznopz20kxywlb (February 23, 2022).

Macur, Juliet and Andrew Keh. 2022. “Kamila Valieva, Russian Figure Skater, Tested Positive for Banned Drug.” The New York Times, February 10. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/10/sports/olympics/kamila-valieva-trimetazidine.html (February 25, 2022).

N509FZ. 2022. Gu Ailing Eileen on her first run at Women’s Freeski Big Air Qualification. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gu_Ailing_Eileen_on_her_first_run_at_Women%27s_Freeski_Big_Air_Qualification_(20220207093703).jpg (March 28, 2022).

“Olympic Medal Table, Beijing 2022.” 2022. International Olympic Committee (IOC). https://olympics.com/beijing-2022/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/medal-standings.htm (February 25, 2022).

Pereira, Ivan. 2022. “Why US, other nations are holding diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games.” ABC News, February 2. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-nations-holding-diplomatic-boycott-beijing-games/story?id=82461768 (February 23, 2022).

Thorbecke, Catharine. 2022. “Amid renewed fears and familiar aches, Asian Americans celebrate Olympic wins.” ABC News, February 17. https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/amid-renewed-fears-familiar-aches-asian-americans-celebrate/story?id=82799816 (February 23, 2022).

Whidden, Samantha. 2022. “Beijing Olympics: Athletes Criticize Poor Living Conditions, Lack of Food.” Outsider, February 7. https://outsider.com/entertainment/beijing-olympics-athletes-criticize-poor-living-conditions-lack-food/.