I know, I know. Sure, I promised to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China—and with good reason. To repeat, the Chi-Comms are truly awful. They are indisputably an authoritarian repressive regime rife with human rights abuses and outright genocide. Let’s also not forget where this damned COVID virus that has dominated our lives for more than two years originated. Evidently many joined the boycott. Viewership ratings were down precipitously from just four years ago to the tune of 42%. And even if you were not specifically tuning in, it was hard to miss the marquee stories of the 2022 winter games continually being reported in the media.
While the drop in viewership can no doubt be attributed at least in part to so many not wanting to have anything to do with an event held in Red China, there are other reasons why NBC television and their associated streaming services might have hemorrhaged viewers during the 2-week competition. Sparsely attended venues devoid of enthusiastic international fans gave these games a rather empty feel. After Russia was caught committing perhaps the biggest drug doping scandal in sports history in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Russian athletes are still farcically allowed to compete; not representing their nation, but rather the Russian Olympic Committee. And of course this came right back to bite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the biggest story coming out of Beijing was yet another Russian athlete testing positive for a banned drug—and still being allowed to compete in the Women’s Figure skating competition.
And then there is the story of California Girl Eileen Gu.
Eileen Gu, the daughter of a Chinese mother and an American father was born and raised in San Francisco, CA where she attended University High School. She was a standout athlete there and under the tutelage of her mother, became a world-class skier, excelling in the freestyle aerial versions of the sport. After achieving much acclaim and success on the junior skiing circuit on Team USA, Gu made the decision to switch allegiances and ski under the Chinese banner which ultimately led to her decision to represent the People’s Republic of China in the Olympics. According to Gu:
“Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations. If I can help to inspire one young girl to break a boundary, my wishes will have come true.”
Well, these are some inspiring and lofty motivations, no doubt. On the surface her apparent selflessness is hard to scrutinize. But……Consider:
- For an American athlete to participate under the flag of another nation in the Olympics based upon the heritage of a parent or dual citizenship is nothing new. Yet, these are typically athletes who were not good enough to make the U.S. team and the only way to fulfill the Olympic dream was to compete under the banner of another nation. Not true for Ms. Gu, as she is the preeminent skier in her disciplines and could just as easily won multiple medals for the U.S., where she was born, raised, educated, trained, and enjoyed every other privilege of American life.
- China does not allow dual citizenship as many other nations do. While she would not publicly admit to such, Gu most likely would have had to renounce her American citizenship and relinquish her U.S. passport to participate with the Chinese Olympic team.
- Inspiring young Chinese girls to take up skiing is a lovely thought, yet Ms. Gu has evidently not considered that Red China is perhaps one of the most repressive regimes that civilization has ever known. Behind the horror stories of genocide and forced labor pervasive in Communist China for decades, it is not unusual to also hear tales of children as young as four who show athletic promise be torn away from their families into years of brutal training regimens to prepare them for the world stage.
- And while Eileen Gu can be considered “just a kid” of 18, she is evidently smart enough to have been aware of the above and recognize that Communist China hardly has the best interests of their young girls at heart when they first click into their first pair of skis. After all, NBC sports commentators continually went out of their way to fawn over Gu’s apparent intelligence, touting her stellar academic career at Pacific Heights’ University High School, near perfect SAT scores, and acceptance to prestigious Stanford University.
Of course, one could legitimately ask why athletes should not vie in competition simply for the love of the game? Certainly a beautiful sentiment, but let’s not kid ourselves. International sport, and the Olympics in particular, are more than just tinged with uber-nationalism. Geopolitics play a strong role in athletic competition and all too often, athletes find themselves as pawns in those struggles. That will likely continue indefinitely.
In the lead up and aftermath of the 2022 Beijing games, Eileen Gu has been at the center of praise for her valor and also derision for her decision to participate with one of America’s greatest rivals in sport and beyond. She has evidently been the subject of death threats and other promises of bodily harm. This is truly pathetic, yet not too surprising in our world of social media relative anonymity. At the very least, Eileen Gu could arguably be deemed a (former) American who turned her back on her country and in addition to her Olympic medals, be worthy of 30 pieces of silver.