Thursday, September 21, 2023
    HomeSportsWith Olympics Closing Ceremony, China Celebrates a Joyless Triumph

    With Olympics Closing Ceremony, China Celebrates a Joyless Triumph


    Chinese officials accused the United States and other nations of politicizing the Olympics, denouncing President Biden’s diplomatic boycott as “a farce.” And yet China also injected its own political elements.

    Mr. Xi met the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, only hours before the opening ceremony, a show of support in the face of Western threats to punish Moscow if its forces invade Ukraine.

    China also chose as an Olympic torch bearer a soldier wounded in a deadly border clash with India in 2020. The Olympic flame was lit by a cross-country skier from Xinjiang, the province experiencing a mass detention and re-education campaign that the United States has called genocidal.

    One official with the Beijing Organizing Committee warned participants not to violate the Olympic Charter’s rule against making political statements. Another official violated it by restating China’s claims on Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy, and denouncing criticism of its policies in Xinjiang as lies.

    Those comments prompted Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, to issue a public rebuke of the hosts, though it was mild. The committee’s overall deference prompted searing criticism from China’s critics, who said that the Games were allowed to “sportswash” grave violations of basic rights.

    Through it all, the sports did shine through.

    Norway, a nation of just five million people, repeated its extraordinary success in the Winter Olympics, topping the medals table with 16 golds, a record, and 37 medals overall. Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old skier from San Francisco who competed for China, became the event’s breakout star.

    Some athletes, focused on their sports above all, praised China’s preparations. Nick Baumgartner, the veteran American snowboarder who, with Lindsey Jacobellis, won a gold medal in snowboard cross, described the mountain venues northwest of Beijing as “amazing.”

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