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From Athens, the Olympic flame arrived in Beijing on Wednesday morning, three and a half months before the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are strongly denounced by human rights defenders as a communication operation of the Chinese regime.
Barely extinguished in Tokyo, the Olympic flame was rekindled for the Beijing Winter Olympics. The symbol of Olympism arrived in China, Wednesday, October 20 in the morning, not without controversy: human rights defenders denounce the “Genocide Games”.
“China aims to organize safe and splendid Games.” In Athens, the vice-president of the Beijing-2022 organizing committee, Yu Zaiqing, gave the start of the traditional long course of the flame, lit the day before in Olympia.
She landed in Beijing, where a ceremony is to take place, before she begins a tour of China, until the opening ceremony of the Olympics on February 4, 2022 at the Beijing National Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest” . “The Olympic flame will travel to the Great Wall and through other parts of China, bringing with it the light of peace and friendship,” Yu Zaiqing said.
The Olympic flame for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which will be held from February 4 to 20, was lit at the ancient Greek site of Olympia according to the traditional ritual, but in the absence of the public due to the Covid- 19 #AFP pic.twitter.com/MCzA7kXEm5
– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) October 18, 2021
In Beijing, the first city in history to host the Summer and Winter Games, around 2,900 athletes from 85 Olympic committees are expected to compete in the Olympics from February 4 to 20. The Paralympics will follow from March 4 to 13.
Pandemic obliges, there were no spectators, neither at the lighting of the flame Monday on the ancient site of Olympia, nor at the ceremony of handing over to the organizers Tuesday at the Panathenaic stadium, nor for the torch relay, very largely cut short.
“The pandemic may have prevented us from holding the torch ceremony in the presence of a public, but I am sure that the successful and safe organization of the Games will be another victory for humanity over the coronavirus,” hoped the President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Kapralos.
“No Genocide Games”
Far from being congratulated, human rights defenders protested against the holding of the Olympic high mass in China, as they had done for the Summer Games in 2008.
They contest in particular Beijing’s policy in Tibet, Hong Kong and especially in Xinjiang (west), against the Uyghurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority.
On Monday, during the flame-lighting ceremony, activists attempted to display a Tibetan flag and a “No Genocide Games” banner before being arrested by security.
“It’s ‘sportwashing’ (literally sport-money laundering, a communication operation aimed at masking human rights violations, Editor’s note). There are no legitimate reasons to organize the Games during a genocide, “said Zumretay Arkin, spokesperson for the Uyghur World Congress.
The United States claims Beijing is carrying out genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkish peoples in Xinjiang, where experts estimate more than a million people are being held.
Beijing denies the term genocide and describes the camps as vocational training centers, a claim rejected by Uyghurs who say they are forced to give up their religious traditions.
The IOC hides behind neutrality
According to Zumretay Arkin, this campaign “aimed at highlighting the various abuses” of the Chinese regime is stronger than that of 2008 against the Beijing Summer Olympics, because it brings together “the Uyghur communities, the communities of Hong Kong, the Tibetan, South Mongolian, Chinese and Taiwanese communities “.
According to these activists, Hong Kong residents, Tibetans and Uighurs are subject to “Orwellian” surveillance in China, which they say worsened after the 2008 Olympics.
The IOC is legitimizing “one of the worst human rights violations of the entire twenty-first century” and sullying the spirit of the Games, said Pema Doma, campaign director of the organization “Students for a Free Tibet “.
“These Games cannot go as planned, they have to be postponed,” she said.
The president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach defeated calls for a boycott, defending the political neutrality of the body and calling on States to take their responsibilities.
He himself was prevented, when he was a fencer, from participating in the 1980 Moscow Games boycotted by his country, the FRG, he argued that a boycott would only hurt athletes.
The IOC is working on the issue of human rights “within the limits of (its) attributions”, he assured last March.