COVID-19 and human rights issues could derail the Games.
The Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Association, Donald Fehr, expects that his group will be allowed by the National Hockey League owners to participate in the 2022 Beijing, China Winter Olympics hockey competition. But Fehr conceded that there could be something that might derail the plan. “Absent very unusual circumstances, I expect us to go back to the Olympics.” There are a number of reasons as to why it makes sense for National Hockey League owners to showcase league players and the game of hockey to an audience in China. Number one is money. China is a whole new market for the National Hockey League and if the NHL markets itself correctly and gets a footing in the country, a whole lot of money could come the NHL’s way. The players want to compete for a gold medal for their home countries. That, of course, begs the question, what is more important playing for Olympic gold or the Stanley Cup? The players will say both.
But there is that very unusual circumstances part hovers over the 2022 Beijing Olympics. That “very unusual circumstances” worry is the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also a human rights issue involving China and the Uighurs. In July 2020, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused China of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against the Uighurs. No country plans an Olympics boycott at this time. The International Olympic Committee ignored charges of human rights violations in awarding the country the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. The 2022 IOC Beijing event is scheduled to start in 13 months. Is that enough time to contain and virtually eliminate COVID-19? No one knows if Tokyo can host this summer’s Olympics. The very unusual circumstances quote is striking. Why? Because COVID-19 remains a significant problem.