Is it possible to watch the Winter Olympics? A former track and field athlete.

By this time next week, the Winter Olympics will be well underway in Beijing. Like the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, the global gathering of athletes will happen during a global pandemic. But China’s first experience hosting the Winter Olympics comes as Canada’s relationship with the country is at a low point amid a troubling array of human rights issues.

My colleagues Steven Lee Myers, Keith Bradsher and Tariq Panja provided an insightful and provocative look at how China was chosen to host the Olympics despite their experience with the sport. winter is limited. More importantly, they also considered the importance of games to Xi Jinping, China’s authoritarian leader.

[China’s Games: How Xi Jinping Is Staging the Olympics on His Terms]

“China no longer needs to prove its position on the world stage; instead, it wants to announce a far-reaching vision of a more prosperous, confident nation under Mr. Xi, the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong,” they wrote. “Where the government once sought to appease critics to make the Olympics a success, today the government defies them.”

Canada still has a headache because of China’s imprisonment of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation for the Vancouver arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese technology executive, at the request of the United States. Last year, the Canadian Intelligence and Security Service warned the government that China’s efforts to distort news in the Chinese-Canadian media “Has become normalized.”

Canada is also among many Western countries that have criticized China’s increasingly authoritarian policies, and in particular its repression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, a largely Muslim region in the west. northwest.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada is joining the US, UK, Australia, Lithuania and others in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics as “a continuation of our continued expression of deep concern about human rights violations.”

Regardless of the season, the Olympics are funded by two private sources in addition to the host governments: commercial sponsorship and the television rights that have, in the case of Canada, been acquired by CBC, as anyone have looked through any of the TV station’s channels or websites in the past few months probably know all too well by now.

As my colleagues Alexandra Stevenson and Steven Lee Myers wrote this week, the large multinational corporations that have spent around $1 billion to fund the Olympics appear unmoved by the human rights situation in the United States. China.

[Read: For Olympic Sponsors, ‘China Is an Exception’]

“While donors have faced opposition from human rights activists in some countries, they have pushed them aside, choosing instead to keep China and its discerning consumer class in mind. its emerging national god, happy,” my colleagues wrote.

All of this makes me both scared and looking forward to this Olympics. On the other hand, I’ve watched several members of Canada’s cross-country skiing team grow up in the sport, so I’m obviously looking forward to seeing them race at one of the biggest venues in the sport. this sport.

But I also feel uneasy about contributing to an audience that sustains a TV license fee that will allow Mr. Xi to highlight his Chinese version.

This week, I talked about my dilemma with Bruce Kidd, a former Olympic athlete and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is also currently an inspector of the organization.

Professor Kidd, a champion of athletes’ human rights, has studied the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has been to China many times.

Like most experts, he noticed that the 2008 Olympics, which many had hoped would open up the country, instead proved to be a step backwards for human rights.

“They are very disturbed when it comes to athletes’ rights,” he told me. “So many countries have asked their athletes to shut up or go home. There are new restrictions on what they can wear and what they can say. Looking back, it gave us the face of a proud new authoritarian China.”

That authoritarianism is only growing, he said. The pandemic and China’s restrictive public health regulations are also reasons for the Chinese authorities strict control and supervision of all Olympic participants as it also reminds athletes not to use the Olympics’ large audience to make political views.

[Read: Security Flaws Seen in China’s Mandatory Olympics App for Athletes]

Leading the Games, Professor Kidd said that he had met a number of athletes and sports officials who were very nervous about going to Beijing. But he rejects the idea that athletes are staying away.

“If there is a consensus among Canada to cut off from China, they will participate in that,” he said. “But they resent the enormous pressure placed on their shoulders to be the only ones acting when everyone else is doing business as usual. That’s not to say they aren’t upset about what’s happening to the Uyghurs and Tibetans, etc. The people I know are very upset. But they are not capable of dealing with that.”

His responses to what I and other TV viewers should do were less direct.

“It’s a really, really, very difficult question,” said Professor Kidd. “I have been a lifelong admirer of Olympic ideals, and the Olympics are perhaps the most meaningful ceremonies for me in my life and I look forward to seeing them. But on the other hand, I am very concerned about what the Chinese government is doing. But this is a world event and I will support it because I support the idea that, even in these very difficult circumstances, the world of sport comes together. So that’s where I’m at. It’s not perfect, but that’s where I stay. ”

  • Stephanie Nolen wrote that Canada is among many rich countries “Actively recruiting healthcare workers from developing countries to replenish the healthcare workforce severely depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” raises “new questions about recruitment ethics.” from countries with weak health systems.”

  • As Canada’s soccer team prepares for its World Cup qualifying match against the United States on Sunday, James Wagner writes that when it comes to football supremacy in North and Central America and the Caribbean, “Canada suddenly rises after decades of slumber“Changed” that calculation and conversation, in real time.

  • Eight members of the Canadian men’s irons team spent the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympics living in a rental home in Vancouver that one of them described as “a shared house without alcohol.“Like athletes around the world, they are trying to get through Covid-19 and avoid being kicked out of the game,” wrote Andrew Keh.

  • ONE convoy of trucks leaving British Columbia Earlier this week reached Ottawa on Friday as other protesters began flooding into the capital from other areas. The convoy, which has raised millions of dollars online, started as a protest against mandatory vaccinations for truck drivers returning from the United States, but has since expanded to include includes a range of grievances and hints of possible violence.

  • A researcher at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is one of a number of scientists with manipulate the cells of a frog to regrow an imperfect but functional limb.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has covered Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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