SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney urged American spectators to boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, saying prohibiting athletes from competing is "the easy, but wrong, answer" to addressing China's human rights issues, in a New York Times op-ed Monday.
Romney, a Republican, said as leader of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, he "gained an understanding of the enormous sacrifice made by our Olympic hopefuls and their families. It would be unfair to ask a few hundred young American athletes to shoulder the burden of our disapproval."
He said "an economic and diplomatic boycott" of the event set to start next February, where only the families of athletes and coaches attend would prevent the United States "from contributing to the enormous revenues the Chinese Communist Party will raise from hotels, meals and tickets."
The American companies "that routinely send large groups of their customers and associates to the Games" should instead gather at U.S. venues to watch the competition, Romney suggested. Utah is home to a bobsled, luge and skeleton track, ski jumps, a speedskating oval and other 2002 venues still in use.
The 2012 GOP presidential nominee also called on President Joe Biden to stand with the minorities and others oppressed by China, saying the country "deserves our condemnation" over a list of issues, including what he described as genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
"Uyghur women are forcefully sterilized or impregnated by Han Chinese men. Adults, ripped from their families, are sentenced into forced labor and concentration camps. Among ethnic Chinese, access to uncensored broadcast news and social media is prohibited. Citizens are surveyed, spied upon and penalized for attending religious services or expressing dissent," Romney said.
Reduce China's revenues, shut down their propaganda, and expose their abuses. An economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics—while letting athletes compete—is the right answer. https://t.co/JELBoARpf3— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) March 15, 2021
China also needs to be held accountable for reneging on allowing Hong Kong self-rule, "brutally" suppressing peaceful protests and incarcerating respected journalists, he said.
"Rather than send the traditional delegation of diplomats and White House officials to Beijing, the president should invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent us," Romney said.
His proposed boycott, Romney said, should include collaboration with NBC, the American TV network with the rights to broadcast the Beijing Olympics. The network "has already done important work to reveal the reality of the Chinese Communist Party's repression and brutality," he said.
Instead of broadcasting "jingoistic elements of the Opening and Closing ceremonies," NBC should instead show "documented reports of China's abuses." The sale of television rights are a major source of revenue for Olympic host cities.
Romney said the United States shouldn't go it alone in protesting China during the Olympics.
"We should enlist our friends around the world to join our economic boycott. Limiting spectators, selectively shaping our respective delegations and refraining from broadcasting Chinese propaganda would prevent China from reaping many of the rewards it expects from the Olympics," he said.
The IOC has hoped that awarding Games to repressive regimes would tend to lessen their abuses. But hope has too often met a different reality."
–Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
China "does not deserve an Olympic showcase," Romney said, but it is too late to move the event. Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Games, was selected years ago for 2022 after other serious competitors dropped out of the running largely due to a lack of local support.
It's time for the U.S. and the rest of the free world "to have a heart-to-heart with the International Olympic Committee" over that decision, he said, citing past Olympics held in Germany under Adolf Hitler and Russia under Vladimir Putin.
"The IOC has hoped that awarding Games to repressive regimes would tend to lessen their abuses," Romney said. "But hope has too often met a different reality — in Hitler's Germany, Putin's Russia and Xi's China. In authoritarian states, the Olympics has more often been a tool of propaganda than a lever of reform."?
Salt Lake City is currently bidding to host a future Winter Games, likely in 2030 or 2034. The city was selected over Denver as the country's choice for another Winter Games, but bid discussions have been overshadowed by the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games until this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Romney said it's understandable there's talk of the U.S. completely boycotting the Beijing Games, including by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said holding the Olympics in Beijing while the Communist Party is there "is committing crimes against democracies around the world, is completely inappropriate."
That could be counterproductive, Romney said, noting no one "seriously believes" President Jimmy Carter's athlete boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow improved Soviet behavior, though it did dash the dreams of American athletes.
"The Olympic Games aren't just a showcase for the host nation, but a platform for values both American and universal," he said, warning of the loss of "the global symbolism of our young American heroes standing atop the medals podium, hand to their hearts, as 'The Star-Spangled Banner' plays on Chinese soil."