Olympics Preview: The major storylines

February 03, 2022
The GIST: Sports won't be the only focus at these Olympics, as they’ll be taking place at the nexus of a global pandemic and global politics. Here are the hot button issues surrounding the Winter Games.
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ANTHONY WALLACE - POOL/GETTY IMAGES
ANTHONY WALLACE - POOL/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Sports won't be the only focus at these Olympics, as they’ll be taking place at the nexus of a global pandemic and global politics. Here are the hot button issues surrounding the Winter Games.

😷 COVID-19: Groundhog Day was yesterday, but we’re still experiencing major flashbacks as yet another Olympics gets underway in the midst of a pandemic.

  • Similar to the 2020 Summer Games, tight restrictions will be in place. All involved will be in a “closed loop,” unable to leave a network of official venues.
  • There’ll be daily COVID-19 tests, and, as for in-person fans, only invited groups of spectators can be in the stands. Luckily our daily newsletters will have you covered.

👀 Censorship: By the time Olympians arrive in Beijing, Brooklyn Net Kevin Durant won’t be the only Olympic alum with a burner account. Though the Chinese government has promised to temporarily open access to social media platforms and other websites for those in the Olympic Village, concerns remain regarding cybersecurity, surveillance and censorship.

  • A mandatory health app for athletes reportedly has “devastating” encryption flaws, and some national Olympic Committees (including those of the U.S. and Canada) are advising members to leave their primary phones and laptops at home over surveillance concerns.
  • And the deputy director general of Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee warned that “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.” Red flags abound.

✊ Protests: Many countries — yet again including the U.S. and Canada — have already announced diplomatic boycotts due to China’s history of human rights abuses, but will athletes use their platforms to draw attention to these atrocities during the Games?

  • With the International Olympic Committee’s recent update to their rules on athlete protests and Olympians like U.S. figure skater Timothy LeDuc already speaking out, we’ll be watching closely.
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