Originally-American Eileen Gu has been criticized by Americans for getting a Chinese passport and choosing to compete on China’s team at the 2022 Olympics. Let’s look at the BBC as a neutral source:
A San Francisco native who learned to ski on the pristine slopes of California’s Lake Tahoe, she is representing China, not the USA, in the Olympics – a move that has come at a sensitive time for Sino-American relations, and has inevitably placed Ms Gu at the centre of a global debate on geopolitics and representation.
Ms Gu has expressed support for movements Black Lives Matter and spoken out against anti-Asian violence in the US, but remained silent on issues like the mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang and the arrests of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
“There’s no need to be divisive,” she told news site The New York Times.
Why would Eileen Gu prefer to represent China? Here’s what New York-based The Guardian US adds to every article displayed in Apple News:
An erosion of democratic norms. An escalating climate emergency. Corrosive racial inequality. A crackdown on the right to vote. Rampant pay inequality. America is in the fight of its life.
Given a choice, what rational person would want to be associated with a country that is packed with enough haters to create so many problems? Gu has personally experienced the Asian Hate that my former neighbors in Maskachusetts bravely put up lawn signs to #Stop: “Eileen Gu calls out ‘domestic terrorism’ of Asian-Americans amid spike in coronavirus-related violence – ‘killing more Asian people isn’t going to kill the virus’” (South China Morning Post):
“This was in San Francisco – supposed to be the liberal bubble within California, which is the most liberal state, in the most liberal country in the world. This was supposed to be the safest place and I felt physically in danger. I grabbed my grandma and we ran out. I was so scared. That moment was definitely a reset because I realised how close to home it hit. That anybody can be affected just because of the way they look or their culture and heritage.”
The superstar athlete’s response to the carping of her inferiors (NBC):
At a press conference after her victory, Gu said she’s trying to be an example for young women and has no interest in the politics or social media debates.
“If people don’t believe me and if people don’t like me, then that’s their loss,” she said. “They’re never going to win the Olympics.”
(Side note: What is the “example for young women”? That their lives too can have value if they win Olympic gold? Also, how does Eileen Gu define the term “women”?)
Let’s look at another recent story and see if it can be combined with the above inspiring tale of a young person who escaped “corrosive racial inequality”, “rampant pay inequality”, and “a crackdown on the right to vote.” “Competing in the Winter Games, Without a Snowball’s Chance” (NYT):
One by one they zigzagged down the mountain, near the end of a line of nearly 90 racers in a snowy giant slalom, looking more like ski hobbyists on a weekend jaunt than world-class competitors.
Many of the skiers were first-time Olympians, brought together by one very pertinent thing they have in common: a shortage of snow in the countries they are representing in Beijing, including Jamaica, Ghana, India, East Timor and Morocco.
“I always say, ‘There is a first league, and there is a second league. We are, for sure, the second league,’” said Carlos Maeder, 43, who is representing Ghana and is the oldest skier at this year’s Games. “Maybe even the third league,” he added, chuckling.
Keenly aware that skiing has been dominated by athletes from richer, colder countries, the International Olympic Committee and skiing’s world governing body have tried to make the sport more inclusive through a quota system that lowers the threshold of qualification.
“I was never going to be competitive,” said Benjamin Alexander, a 38-year-old Jamaican skier and former D.J. He finished last in the giant slalom in a race on Sunday. “The people I was competing against started skiing at 2 and had their first race training at 4 or 5,” he said.
Mr. Alexander started skiing when he was 32.
The typical rich American is a reasonably good skier. The U.S. allows dual passports. East Timor might be happy to give an American billionaire a passport and a place on its Olympic team in exchange for a small (by billionaire standards) cash payment. If not the billionaire then the athletic child of the billionaire. What better way to experience the Olympics than as an athlete? (and, in fact, this year it was the only way for an American to experience the Olympics)
Readers: What could go wrong with the above scheme?
NYT reader comments on the New York Times article regarding affirmative action for athletes who are not good at winter sports:
I think we should add meat packing and fruit picking in summer heat to the Summer Olympics. Perhaps it will show the world the horrors the migrants are treated in this country.
I don’t think Americans fully grasp what it means to some of these countries see themselves represented in the games. Seriously, the privilege of the comments in this article drives me nuts. Travel the world and you’ll learn that yes, being American is itself a privilege in more ways than you thought you’d be able to comprehend.
(Norwegians have even more privilege, therefore, since they win way more medals?)
Full post, including comments
A better way to diversify the winter games would be to include more sports that can be learned without fancy facilities. How about snowshoe racing? It’s really just running (in snowshoes) and there are many poor countries with great runners.
This is same thing as space voyeurism at this point except Olympic voyeurism.
I was fortunate enough to watch the bottom tier skaters the other day, stumbling or falling, getting up and finishing with grace and gratitude. Pure joy to be there…and the greatest lesson from the Simones and the Mikealas of the world is that a champions bad day can be someone else’s lifetime achievement. Nothing makes someone more weak and vulnerable than to be crushed because of lack of perfection, it is they who are without hope or faith.
(Paul, Bay Area) How about we simply stop Winter Olympics until we fix the climate ? I love the Olympic Games, winter sports, but it is so incongruous with the climate trends that my heart is not in it.
Nobody is getting into Harvard who can barely read. Penn, maybe. At least back in the day.