As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approached, the lack of enthusiasm for the games was palpable.
Whether it was because of the COVID-19 restrictions — the fans who usually accompany the events are mostly missing — or the location of the Winter Games — controversy around China’s record of human rights abuses has swirled — the energy around the Winter Olympics was noticeably lacking.
The early television ratings tell the story.
According to NBC Sports, the Opening Ceremony drew just 16 million viewers, which includes people watching on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. Per Axios, the 16 million total viewers for Friday’s main event puts this years’ Opening Ceremony 43% down from the Opening Ceremony at the 2018 Winter Games.
“Including viewership across digital platforms — like NBC’s streaming service Peacock and the NBC sports app — NBC Sports says the event drew 16 million viewers total,” Sara Fischer of Axios wrote. “That’s down about 43% from the 23.8 million people who watched the opening ceremony for the last winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018.”
As reported by Yahoo Sports, the 16 million viewers is a record-low for an Opening Ceremony, with the previous low being 20.1 million viewers for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
According to polls, one of the main components to the lack of interest is the Olympic Games’ location itself.
Per FiveThirtyEight, “40 percent in the Morning Consult poll said they don’t plan to watch the Olympics this year because they are opposed to China hosting the Games, and 31 percent cited it as a ‘major’ reason.”
In December, the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, citing the PRC’s “crimes against humanity” and “ongoing genocide” as to why the U.S. would not be sending any official representation to Beijing.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
On Friday, China continued its controversial ways, reportedly selecting a Chinese athlete with a Uyghur last name to light the Olympic cauldron. According to The New York Times, the athlete was Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a cross-country skier with Uyghur roots.
“This moment is quite provocative,” Savannah Guthrie of NBC said. “It’s a statement from the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to choose an athlete from the Uyghur minority. It is an in-your face response to those western nations, including the U.S., who have called this Chinese treatment of that group genocide, and diplomatically boycotted these games.”
There has also been great concern regarding the ability of athletes to speak freely without fear of consequences from the Chinese government.
“I would say to our athletes — you are there to compete,” Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) said in part during testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government because they are ruthless. I know there is a temptation on the part of some to speak out while they are there, I respect that. But, I also worry about what the Chinese government might do to their reputations, to their families.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].
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