Is 2022 the year of peak sports washing?

Competitive sports are built on the concept of fair play, which helps explain why many oppressive regimes see value in games. Any form of good, healthy fun can seem like it’s offered by good, healthy people, even when the facts say otherwise.

China, with its appalling human rights record and opposition to an independent Taiwan, hosted the last Winter Olympics with a peaceful strategic slogan Together for a common future. One of the stars in those games was Elaine Jo, a California-born skater who chose to compete for her mother’s homeland in China, tacitly embracing the government of China rather than the United States, whether that was her intention or not. Gu declined to say whether she gave up her US citizenship to get a Chinese passport, as required by Chinese law, but she was flanked by “the ability of sports to bridge the gap and be a force for unity.”

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