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How the Winter Olympics is thrusting China into the world spotlight

Winter Olympics
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 19:30:10-05

APPLETON (NBC 26) — Hosting the Olympics is a chance for countries to show their strength on the world stage. Matty Wegehaupt, a lecturer of Japanese and Chinese studies at Lawrence University, says just like in the United States, China looks to its Olympic athletes as national heroes.

“The idea of cultivation of body and mind together and reaching for excellence is a cherished virtue,” Wegehaupt said.

Winning gold brings a sense of national pride and Wegehaupt says hosting the Olympics is a chance for countries to assert their political dominance as one of the top powers in the world.

“Across East Asia we’ve seen with Japan, South Korea and China, they’ve all used the Olympics to let the world know what they’re doing," he said. "It’s kind of like an industry standard to become a participating member of the highest level of the world community.”

Being selected by the International Olympic Committee is something that’s sought after by many countries but not easily won.

“It’s an incredibly challenging and difficult process where each city will make a bid many years ahead of time and then who wins in that process is a tricky political process, it’s not very transparent,” Wegehaupt said.

Beijing is the first city to host the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. It's quite the accomplishment, but it didn't come without controversy. The U.S and several other countries decided not to send officials to the games, citing human rights violations by the Chinese government.

"It was a few years ago that the first mentions of trying to fully boycott the Olympics started in the western world," Wegehaupt said. "I think it started around the time that there were a lot of protests in Hong Kong and many people in the west were thinking 'Wow. China can't host the games if these types of things are happening in this country.'"

But Wegehaupt says China, no stranger to criticism from the west, will be ready to face the controversy.

“One of their torch bearers at the opening ceremony today is Uyghur," he said. "The Uyghur people who are the target of what politicians are calling a genocide, so for China to then have a resident Xin Jing cross-country skier as the torch barer, kind of shows that they’re ready to play the PR game.”