I got the news alert about the diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games and because it was the middle of a busy Monday, I took some time before I was able to click through to the whole article and I confess I was disappointed. I understand there are no perfect solutions here. And I also understand that athletes that wish to compete in a pandemic should maybe get to compete because Olympics are hard to come by.
I talked before about my unease with holding an Olympics when approximately half the world is currently unvaccinated, when many athletes are travelling from countries that have had limited access to vaccines, and are being asked to arrive somewhere and operate in close quarters with athletes, coaches, judges, and press with limited protection.
If anyone needs to hang onto their lung capacity it is definitely athletes. (Also, as an asthmatic, I have to tell you lung capacity is a wonderful privilege that everyone should be able to enjoy.)
Quick note: I am going to bring up a sexual assualt story. As always, please feel free to bow out now, if this is not a good time for you to read that. RAINN provides support to folks who have expereinced sexual assualt and resources for those who wish to better support the survivors in their life.
RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, accessible 24/7 by phone (800.656.HOPE) and online (online.rainn.org).
I am also aware of, and have been following the story of Peng Shuai, a tennis player and Olympian who seems to have possibly disappeared after indicating she had been sexually assaulted by a political figure.
So, yes, I can think of several reasons for people to have concerns about an Olympics being held in China, not just in a pandemic.
I know there is reason to believe that with making political change, things like athletic boycotts were more effective in situations like South Africa than many of the economic ones, since economic sanctions mostly affect the people without power.
I am aware that symbolic gestures are sometimes better than nothing. I even agree that in a pandemic, less people travelling to be at the thing in person is actually a very good idea.
But I think this is also not quite enough. I know no one wants to disappoint athletes, but I think not wanting to disappoint people in a pandemic is part of why this pandemic has continued longer than it needed to. And so I wish we were ready for a stronger message than we will watch your Olympics from our couches. But it is at least something.