(NewsNation Now) — Sports broadcaster Bob Costas said The International Olympic Committee has politicized the Winter Olympics “simply by putting them in Beijing.”
The IOC has said athletes will have freedom of speech at next month’s Winter Games when speaking to journalists or posting on social media. However, the Olympic Charter rule that prohibits political protests at medal ceremonies also requires “applicable public law” to be followed.
Costas believes that is “beyond disingenuous,” referring specifically to the fact the summer games were held in Beijing as recently as 2008.
“The world wasn’t as fully aware. And in truth, the Chinese regime, objectionable as it was in 2008, is much worse now,” he said. “And the genocide and the human rights violations are worse now. And it’s impossible to ignore it. It’s a giant elephant in the room.”
The U.S. has said it will not send dignitaries to the Games, which open Feb. 4, in a protest over China’s detention of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, along with crackdowns on human rights elsewhere in the country.
However, Costas believes ignoring China’s human rights abuses may be reaching a “critical mass” and more people, of both political parties in the U.S., have learned about them in recent years.
“Widespread public understanding cuts across political lines,” he said.
The games are also being held in a time during intense lockdown across the country due to the pandemic. China has pursued a strict “zero tolerance” policy toward outbreaks, including lockdowns of millions of people, travel bans, compulsory masking, mass testing and health surveillance by smartphone apps.
Costas said NBC has moved about 90% of its Olympics broadcast operations to its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.
“That’s a good move because the COVID protocols (in China) are so tight that even asymptomatic athletes are likely to test positive at some point and then be quarantined in China. NBC is responsible for a small army of personnel. And so to get as many of them out of there to begin with is a good idea.”
Beijing will require travelers to take nucleic acid tests within 72 hours of entering the city starting Jan. 22. Schools in Beijing have also closed early and moved classes online ahead of the winter holidays.
The Olympics begin Feb. 4, just days after the start of Lunar New Year celebrations.