As the Olympics Wrap Up, Scandals Take Center Stage
As the 2022 Winter Olympics come to a close, scandals continue to dominate many of the stories from Beijing. The games were shrouded in scandal from the start, beginning with the sudden disappearance of the famous Chinese tennis player, Peng Shuai, several months before the games, after she publicly stated she was assaulted by a high-ranking member of the Chinese government, reports The Washington Post. Then, there were the concerns about the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people, for which the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Kosovo, and New Zealand diplomatically boycotted the Olympics. Even with all the scandal surrounding the 2022 Olympic host country, the games continued as scheduled on February 4 with the lighting of the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony.
Audiences witnessed first wins and world record-breaking performances. There were many highs for Team USA, according to CBS Sports, as figure skater Nathan Chen won his first Olympic gold medal, Chloe Kim won gold in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe, and Erin Jackson became the first black woman to win gold in the 500-meter individual speed skating event. The United States’ famed veteran snowboarder, Shaun White, had a memorable second-halfpipe run at his last Olympics. Though he placed fourth overall, he will be remembered for popularizing the halfpipe and his incredible gold-medal runs at previous Olympic games.
Throughout this Olympic Games, however, all eyes were on two young female athletes: Eileen Gu and Kamila Valieva. Eileen Gu is an American Chinese skier who chose to compete for China during her first Olympic games, according to CNN. She rose to stardom during the games after winning two gold medals in the big air and halfpipe freestyle ski and one silver medal in the slopestyle ski. At the age of 18, Gu is the youngest skier to win any freestyle skiing event at the Winter Olympics. She continues to make a name for herself and be outspoken about the lack of representation in extreme sports.
Alongside Eileen Gu is Kamila Valieva, who rose to fame as the face of the Russian Olympic team for her figure skating talent, CNN continues. She made history at the Olympics as she became the first female figure skater to score higher than 90 points in a short program as well as becoming first female figure skater to ever land a quad in competition, all at the age of 15. However, these two record-breaking moments were overshadowed when news broke that Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug.
Russia had previously been in doping scandals which resulted in the ban of all Russian athletes from the 2018 Winter Olympics and the removal of medals of many Russian athletes, according to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. While the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) allowed Valieva to continue to compete in the Olympics, the trauma the scandal had caused the young figure skater was apparent in her freestyle skate, reports CBS Sports. She had multiple mistakes and falls, and completely broke down when she realized her score was not good enough to receive a place on the podium.
Throughout the Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was committed to keeping the Olympics apolitical. To keep the spotlight on the athletes, the IOC created rules that forbade anyone, including athletes and government officials, from any political actions on Olympic premises. However, in a scheduled press conference on February 17, Chinese spokeswoman, Yan Jiarong, commented on Taiwan’s sovereignty and China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, reports The Associated Press. Yan clarified that “Taiwan is an indivisible part of China” and that “the rumors of Uyghurs being put into forced labor were based on lies.”
While there were many moments of greatness and record-breaking performances at this year’s Olympic Games, they were at times overshadowed by politics. Despite the many success stories, the Olympics could not avoid scandal at a time when the world needed to see hope and bravery prevail.