China, IOC must prevent incidents from overshadowing Beijing Olympic athletes

At the Beijing Winter Olympics, players performing at a top level have been constantly overshadowed by incidents. This is an extremely regrettable situation. Host nation China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must be held accountable.

During the opening ceremony, the final pair of runners for the torch relay included an unknown female athlete identified as Uighur, an ethnic minority in China. Beijing may have wanted to show the world its ethnic harmony amid criticism of its human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

After the woman competed in her event, she did not speak to reporters, with only China’s state media reporting her joy at running the relay. It is problematic that China’s style of media control has extended even to the Olympics.

Timed with the opening of the Winter Olympics, Beijing announced that it would allow the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to visit Xinjiang. If China claims that the international community’s criticism is unfair, it should show things as they are in the region.

IOC President Thomas Bach was seen watching a competition alongside China’s Peng Shuai, a professional women’s tennis player.

Peng’s whereabouts were temporarily unknown after she had made an accusation about a former senior Communist Party official, and there are strong suspicions that Peng is being controlled by authorities in China. Consequently, Bach’s behavior is complicit in China’s propaganda that Peng is free to do as she pleases.

Hasn’t the IOC leader himself violated the IOC’s principles of excluding politics and being neutral?

Doping suspicions have arisen regarding a Russian Olympic Committee athlete, this time in figure skating.

Russia has been banned from using its national flag and anthem at the Beijing Games due to sanctions against its systematic doping in the past. Even so, Russian athletes who have individually qualified for the Games have been allowed to compete.

As long as the IOC continues to be weak-kneed toward Russia, it must be said that it will be difficult to eradicate doping.

Rules decisions in the competitions at the Olympics are also attracting attention.

In the ski jumping mixed team event, five ski jumpers, including Japan’s Sara Takanashi, were disqualified. After completing their jumps, their suits were deemed to have violated regulations in random sampling inspections.

Athletes themselves have also been questioning the fairness of the inspections. There is no denying that this left a bitter taste. Measures should be taken to prevent such confusion.

Japan’s athletes have continued their good performances. In men’s single figure skating, 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama made a breakthrough, taking the silver medal. He is becoming one of the leading athletes for the future of figure skating. Bronze medalist Shoma Uno skating full of spirit also enthralled many people.

Although Yuzuru Hanyu failed to win his third consecutive Olympic gold, he deserves praise as he did not fear failure, bravely attempting to execute an unprecedented quadruple axel jump.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 11, 2022.