Maritimers weigh in on U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics
America’s diplomatic boycott of February’s winter games in Beijing would see athletes competing, while government officials stay home.
The move has some wondering if Canada should follow suit. For those in the world of elite sport, it’s a delicate conversation.
“They’re doing their best to focus on their training, to make their teams,” said Ken Bagnell, the president of Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic.
Bagnell believes political efforts to stabilize relations with China must be balanced with the spirit of the games.
“And so it’s not to dismiss that but to really bring the Olympic and Paralympic movement back to its core, which is really about the athletes,” he said.
Fabian Joseph won two Olympic hockey silvers with Team Canada at two winter games in the early nineties. For him, the event is a time to remember – regardless of politics.
“You’re not only representing your family and your city and you province but you’re representing your country and you’re on a team with Olympic athletes from all sports, not just one sport,” said Joseph.
For Wei Ai, China and elite sport are topic she knows well. A native of Beijing, she came to Canada 20 years ago. The table tennis athlete has competed in nationals and now mentors young players.
“I’m not into the politics, and I think sports is sports,” she said.
Ai would rather see governments focus on supporting athletes. She said in her experience, sport can bring people together.
“We can have a different background,” she said. “And when we get together that’s the sport we love, we don’t talk about the diplomatic or politicians.”
Athletics aside, one Dalhousie University professor said the U.S. is now playing a game it shouldn’t have started.
“I think this is a horrendous decision by the Biden administration to do this,” said international development studies professor Robert Huish. “All those athletes are now at risk, of any sort of detainment, any kind of prosecution from Chinese authorities.”
That, based on what’s happened before – and the detainment by China of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. A reason why Huish said Canada shouldn’t follow the U.S. example.
But Huish said an all-out boycott comes with caveats.
“What are the specific asks, and can that deliver, is the question,” he said.
Those are conversations Huish said governments and Olympic committees need to have while athletes focus on their goals ahead.