Would the move be worth depriving American athletes of their chance to win gold medals?
In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, more generally in response to Soviet Union human rights violations but more immediately due to 1979’s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 65 nations ultimately boycotted the games, including China, Japan, Israel, and Canada. However, some major U.S. allies including the U.K., France, and Australia still participated.
The U.S. decision was made by President Jimmy Carter, not by Congress. Yet Congress still passed nonbinding resolutions overwhelmingly approving the decision, by 386–12 in the House and 88–4 in the Senate.
Next year’s 2022 Winter Olympics are slated for three cities in northeastern China: primarily Beijing, but also Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. With similar calls for a boycott of those games, due to China’s human rights record, could even nonbinding congressional resolutions help seal the deal?
What the resolution does
The resolution first urges the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the 2022 Winter Olympics out of China — and if they don’t, urges the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to boycott American participation.
To be clear, the resolution would not directly institute a U.S. boycott. That decision is not Congress’s to make, but instead resides with the USOPC. But congressional pressure to do so would likely increase the odds of such a boycott occurring.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that China doesn’t deserve to be honored and revered by billions of people on the world stage in such a public forum.
“The Chinese Communist Party has carried out a number of heinous acts in the last year alone that should disqualify them from hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.,” Rep. Waltz said in a press release. “The world cannot legitimize the CCP’s acts of genocide in Xinjiang, destruction of the democratic rights of Hong Kong, and dangerous suppression of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan that cost lives by sending delegations to Beijing.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that even if you’re opposed to China, the exact right move is for U.S. athletes to travel there and beat them on their home turf.
“In February 4 remarks, President Joe Biden defined China as ‘our most serious competitor,’” Foreign Policy Institute senior research scholar David M. Lampton wrote in a Newsweek op-ed. “It would be ironic for one of the new administration’s first acts to be unilaterally walking off one of the world’s largest fields of competition against that “most serious competitor.”
Recent history may be instructive here. Similar calls arose to boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but the U.S. attended and won more medals than China, 110 to 100.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted five cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Foreign Affairs or Oversight and Reform Committee.
Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.