Mia Hasenson-Gross
Mia Hasenson-Gross

International Olympic Committee must learn lessons of 1936

A muslim is praying before the demonstration in solidarity with the Uyghurs, started in Amsterdam, on December 29th, 2019. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto)
A muslim is praying before the demonstration in solidarity with the Uyghurs, started in Amsterdam, on December 29th, 2019. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto)

In 1935, a year before Germany was due to host the 1936 Olympics, British athletes called on Adolf Hitler to mark the Games by freeing imprisoned Jewish athletes and others incarcerated “for racial or religious reasons”.

They called on the UK government to back their campaign. The government refused. We all know what happened next. The Nazi regime used the Games for propaganda purposes, pushing the idea of white racial superiority.

In 1931, when Germany was first awarded the Olympics, it was a republic. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, the International Olympic Committee refused to criticise its treatment of Jews for fear of irritating its host, despite Jews being interned.

History is repeating itself. Today, the International Olympic Committee is equally reluctant to criticise the 2022 host nation, instead relying on China’s promise that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected.

Yet the Chinese government sees this as an opportunity to project soft power to the world, so we must remind the world that this festival of sport is taking place in a country where there is growing evidence of a genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.

These Games cannot be allowed to whitewash an attempt to destroy a people. That is why we and others in the Jewish community seek to taint the brand of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Its sponsors will be sponsoring what the world may come to know as the ‘Genocide Games’. We urge them to step back now.

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About the Author
Mia Hasenson-Gross is human rights charity René Cassin’s Director
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