Two of Sweden’s greatest winter athletes have recently strongly questioned the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 and The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) supports the criticism, Swedish media SVT reports.
When biathlete Sebastian Samuelsson was selected for the Olympics last week, he took the opportunity to direct harsh criticism at China as a host country. China has long been criticized for its human rights abuses against ethnic minority groups in the country and the situation in Hong Kong. The Olympic gold medalist said that type of country should not host championships and above all, not the Olympics.
Skating world champion Nils van der Poel had similar thoughts during his press conference last week where he stated, “If I get to go to the Olympics, I realize that I do not excel as a human being.”
Peter Reinebo, SOK’s operations manager, admits that since Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, development has gone in the wrong direction which is unfortunate he says. Furthermore, he states that it is clear that more genuine democracies should arrange these large multi-events, “I think a lot of people think that,” he says.
Peter Reinebo believes that more Swedish Olympic athletes share the same opinion of China as the host country. “I think that they have both logical and justified views, and I think they are fairly common views, even if only a few have expressed them,” he says.
SOK collaborates with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Embassy, and the human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders to inform about the situation in the country.
The Swedish athletes that get selected to participate in the Olympics will have access to reports and participate in seminars where the focus will be on human rights, freedom of expression, and democracy. “It is not just to prepare them for the situation but to prepare them for the fact that there will be questions,” Peter Reinebo says.
A boycott of the Olympics in Beijing 2022 has been suggested, mainly from human rights organizations, but Sweden sees it as an opportunity to instead put democracy issues on the agenda. “The good thing about the bad is that these types of issues end up on the agenda and that it becomes more topical to discuss, I think that is good,” Peter Reinebo says.