Xi’s China dream versus the Olympic dream: Beijing 2022 and the CCP’s ‘mutually beneficial’ relationship with the IOC president

A panel discussion on ‘Promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal’ at the UN Human Rights Committee will further the win-win cooperation between the CCP and the International Olympic Council and undermine the principles and values of Olympism.

On July 7, the Human Rights Council (HRC) will hold its quadrennial panel discussion on “promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal.”1 The specific theme of the upcoming meeting is “the potential of leveraging sport and the Olympic ideal for promoting human rights for young people.”2 Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), will deliver an opening statement via video, as will Mutō Toshirō 武藤敏郎, Director General of Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.3 The Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Winter Games does not appear in the panel discussion’s concept note (as of June 17),4 but whatever Thomas Bach says will undoubtedly be in line with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) views,5 and China is almost certain to obtain one of the 12 speaker slots for interventions from States.6

States concerned about human rights must be vigilant not to be swayed or distracted by Thomas Bach and the IOC’s lofty rhetoric about the Olympic ideal, values and spirit, the Olympic Truce, or grand claims about the IOC’s sustainability strategy. On July 8, Thomas Bach heads to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics, which are set to begin on July 23, amid increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections.7

Just as the right to health for Japanese residents, athletes, and others has taken a back seat to IOC interests, so too has press freedom. The restrictions that the IOC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee have placed on foreign media traveling to Japan to cover the Olympics are so severe that a group of sports editors from more than 10 prominent media outlets in the U.S., including the New York Times, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post, wrote a joint letter to Thomas Bach and Hashimoto Seiko 橋本聖子, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee, protesting the curtailing of press freedoms.8 The HRC’s July 7 panel discussion concept note highlights the important role of the media for the Olympics, and a 2015 Human Rights Council Advisory Committee report on sport and the Olympic ideal states that the media “play a key role in upholding human rights and, for this purpose, an independent media and freedom of expression are essential.”9

The Covid-19 restrictions on journalists traveling to Tokyo to cover the Games sets a troubling precedent that will enable the Chinese government to justify its inevitable media restrictions come February 2022. Thomas Bach stated in 2017 that the IOC would do its part to help China realize its dreams: curtailing press freedom at the Beijing 2022 Games would certainly help. After the Tokyo Summer Games, concerned States should keep an eye on how the IOC and Beijing 2022 may join forces in ways that further undermine human rights and the lofty values the Olympics are meant to embody and promote.

The July 7 Panel and the Stakes for Human Rights

This article focuses on two questions related to the July 7 panel discussion, with an eye towards the Beijing 2022 Olympics as well as the overall sport portfolio at the UN. First—-a somewhat rhetorical question: how can a “mutually beneficial” relationship between Thomas Bach and Xi Jinping promote human rights, through the Olympic ideal10 or otherwise? Second—-and something of a trick question: why isn’t the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) represented at the July 7 panel discussion? Spoiler alert: it no longer exists.

The shuttering of the Geneva-based UNOSDP in late April 2017 appears to have been the result of several in-person meetings in Switzerland between Xi Jinping, Thomas Bach, and then newly-elected UN Secretary-General António Guterres in January 2017.11 Publicly available information suggests that a deal was struck between the three powerful and effectively unaccountable leaders, giving Bach and Xi a “win-win” that resulted in more power and influence for the IOC and China over the sport portfolio at the UN, with Guterres playing a crucial facilitating role.12

Why does this matter? The closure of the UNOSDP, which was the gateway to the UN for grassroots groups, NGOs, media, and the private sector, among others, for ‘sport for development and peace’ (SDP), and the fact that Bach and Xi seem to have instigated its demise, represents another door shut to grassroots and civil society organizations looking to engage with the UN, something that the Chinese government is keen to block whenever possible. The UNOSDP seemed to be standing in the way of bigger plans the IOC and the Chinese government had for sport for development and peace at the UN, and so they seized on a fortuitous moment, the end of Ban Ki-Moon’s second term as UN Secretary-General, to kill it off.

With respect to the July 7 panel discussion, it matters because a true grassroots voice is missing, and Thomas Bach will have an outsized role that he will likely use to deflect attention away from the IOC’s disregard for the health and human rights issues at stake with the Tokyo 2020 Games and its complicity in ignoring China’s abysmal human rights record. Bach will likely deliver lofty, feel-good pronouncements about youth, sustainability, solidarity, and sport as an enabler of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.13

The ‘Mutually Beneficial’ Relationship between IOC President Thomas Bach and Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping and Thomas Bach’s relationship appears to be based on their mutual interest in accumulating more power on the global stage and helping each other expand the influence, legitimacy, and durability of their respective organizations. There’s a lot of mutual cheerleading, beyond what might normally be expected. On Bach’s unopposed reelection to helm the IOC for four more years in March 2021, the Chinese government said:

“During his eight-year presidency, president Bach has led the IOC to make outstanding achievements through a fruitful process of reform and innovation. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, president Bach, with his abundant experience and unparalleled courage, has led the IOC to make positive contributions to the global fight against the epidemic and the sound development of the Olympic Movement.”14

And Bach has repeatedly praised the Chinese government and Xi personally, especially since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ readout of a call this January between Xi and Bach stated:

“Thomas Bach said under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has made outstanding achievements in combating COVID-19, taken the lead in economic recovery and become an important engine for world economic recovery. He expressed sincere congratulations on China’s achievements.” 15

Xi Jinping and Thomas Bach also share a love of sports,16 and their ‘mutually beneficial’ relationship may be a factor in their excitement about the upcoming Beijing 2022 Games.17 Bach will likely be glad once the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games are behind him,18 and relieved that he won’t have to deal with disgruntled citizens and protestors, independent opinion polls or journalists asking tough questions once he’s in China for Beijing 2022.19 Finally, Xi and the CCP, of course, share Bach and the IOC’s aversion to the so-called “politicization” of the Games.20

On Xi’s personal goal of getting 300 million Chinese people involved in winter sports before Beijing 2022, Bach, apparently confident that Xi can conjure anything he puts his mind to, said in February 2021, “With these 300 million people engaging in winter sports, we can clearly say the history of winter sports will be one before Beijing 2022 and one after the Winter Games in Beijing. So it’s really a landmark event for the global development of winter sports.”21

January 2017: Bach’s ‘Set of Medals’ for Xi in Lausanne

Xi Jinping was busy during his state visit to Switzerland in mid-January 2017.22 He delivered a headline-grabbing speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 17—- a first appearance at Davos for a PRC head of state—-23 and he gave another major speech at the UN Office at Geneva the following day, in addition to participating in official meetings in Bern.24 Xi also traveled to Lausanne to see his “mutually beneficial” friend and sports pal Thomas Bach at IOC Headquarters and tour the Olympic Museum.

In advance of Xi’s visit to Switzerland, a piece attributed to Xi Jinping appeared in the German-language Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). He wrote in part: “The International Olympic Movement, in its over 100 years, has played a positive role in enhancing all-round human development, deepening friendship between nations and promoting peace, development and progress. . . . I am glad to visit the International Olympic Committee and learn from President Thomas Bach and the IOC their ideas about promoting the Olympic spirit and advancing the Olympic Movement.”25

After delivering his speech at Davos on January 17, Xi went to Lausanne, the international sports capital where “the Olympic rings decorate everything.”26 In Lausanne, Xi and Bach held talks over dinner featuring Chinese and European cuisine, “[s]ymbolic of the close cooperation between China and the IOC,” IOC media said.27 The “official visit” would continue the following day “with bilateral talks and a visit to the Olympic Museum.”28

Both IOC media and Xinhua described Xi’s visit to the IOC as “official” and “historic.” The report on the IOC website begins triumphantly: “IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to The Olympic Museum today, in what is the first visit by a Chinese Head of State to the IOC.”29 A two-minute celebratory video, titled “Chinese President Xi Jinping in Lausanne for Official Visit to the IOC,” accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack, appears on the IOC’s website.30 Statements were made, photos were taken, and Bach proclaimed the Beijing 2022 preparations to be on track. Dreams and visions for the future were shared.

About his dreams, Xi said:

“We have many dreams, the Chinese dream of turning China into a society of prosperity; the dream of promoting the Olympic Movement; and also the dream of fostering a community of shared destiny for the whole of humanity. All the dreams are interconnected and integrated with one another. In this respect, I believe the IOC has a huge role to play to help the fulfilment of all these dreams.”31

During the meeting, Bach said that “China and the IOC enjoy excellent relations and strong cooperation on many different levels” and that Xi’s visit to the IOC “is another expression of this great cooperation and our friendship with the Chinese people.”32

After his meeting with Xi in Lausanne, Bach told Xinhua in an interview: “President Xi is a true champion and I want to give him a set of medals because he has a clear vision about the important role of sports in society, and the importance of sports for education for the young people. So in this respect, he is the true Olympic champion for the youth.”33 (Recall that the theme of the July 7 Human Rights Council panel discussion is”the potential of leveraging sport and the Olympic ideal for promoting human rights for young people.”)

Bach also said the IOC “applauds the Chinese and President Xi’s personal project to attract millions [i.e., 300 million] of the Chinese into winter sports through this Winter Olympics,” adding “it was very impressive to hear how he sees this [W]inter [G]ames as part of his Chinese dream.”34 Bach said that Xi “personally is very committed to the success of the 2022 Games. Therefore he is pushing very hard from his side. After this visit [to Lausanne] I am sure of its success.”35

This, of course, wasn’t the first meeting between Xi and Bach. They must have interacted in connection with the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics; Bach was an IOC vice president at the time, and Xi Jinping, a vice-president of China and new Politburo Standing Committee member who was “given political responsibility” for the 2008 Games36 as the head of the CCP’s Beijing Olympics preparatory leading small group.37 In 2008, Bach was favored to succeed IOC president Jacques Rogge when his term ended in the fall of 2013.38 When Bach did in fact became IOC president at the conclusion of Rogge’s term, his first overseas trip was to China that November, where he met with newly minted “President” Xi Jinping.39 After Xi and Bach’s meeting in the Great Hall of the People, Bach presented Xi with the Olympic Order in Gold, the highest award of the Olympic Movement.40

Next stop: Unified Thought in Geneva

After Xi’s visit in Lausanne concluded during the morning of January 18, he proceeded to Geneva. Bach would also go to Geneva later that day to meet with the new UN Secretary-General António Guterres. 41 Xi met with Guterres in Geneva as well, but his main event was a major speech at the UN Office at Geneva, titled “Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind.” 42

Guterres provided opening remarks before Xi’s speech, describing China as a “central pillar” of multilateralism, which “has remained committed to its role within the international community,” noting that such “commitment to multilateralism is today more necessary than ever.”43 This was just several days before Trump’s inauguration, and it was clear where Trump’s “America First” policies were heading. China was looking to fill the impending vacuum, and Guterres seemed to be encouraging the move. Just a few months later, Guterres would go to Beijing to deliver remarks at the first Belt and Road Forum, where he would speak about the “immense potential” of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the synergies between the BRI and the UN 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.44

In his speech at the UN Office at Geneva, Xi spelled out his vision for a new China-centric world order (not using those terms exactly, but, it would become clear later, that was the idea): it would be a world in which countries would engage in “mutually beneficial cooperation,” “mutual respect,” and “dialogue and cooperation,” rather than confrontation and conflict, and where everyone would be a winner (but China perhaps more so than others). There would be no space for human rights, other than the right to development. Individuals would no longer be rights holders who could make claims against their governments for human rights violations; this new world order would be free of the values and ideas on which the current rules-based international order is based.45

While in Geneva, Xi met with Guterres, and Bach and Guterres also met bilaterally. The upshot of the meetings in Lausanne and Geneva during Xi’s visit to Switzerland, with respect to the sports portfolio at the UN, was the demise of the Geneva-based UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, and increased power and control for the IOC and China. The PRC-controlled UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) was slated to take over the substantive portfolio of the UNOSDP upon its closure.46 And the IOC also took on a new role in the sport and development sector with its newly created Commission for Public Affairs and Social Development through Sport, which at least one expert in the field described at the time as “replacing” the UNOSDP.47

The sport for development and peace (SDP) sector is grounded in a grassroots, bottom-up movement, a civil society initiative that has focused on ‘sport for all,’ inclusion, and sport as a means to further development and peace objectives rather than competition and medal counts.48 In February 2018, Guterres made it clear he was aligning the UN with the IOC exclusively. During the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, Guterres suddenly announced that the IOC and the UN

“feel such a [unity] of points of view that I have decided that the UN does not need to have any other voice in relation to sports but the voice of the International Olympic Committee. The International Olympic Committee represents by its values the same values that created the United Nations.”49

UN DESA Takes Over UNOSDP’s Portfolio as a New “Direct Partnership” between the UN and the IOC is established

It appears that UNOSDP, although based in Geneva, was not in the room when discussions were being held over its fate. When the news was announced a few months later, the reactions from staff and other stakeholders in the broader SDP field, were a mix of surprise, shock, criticism, and concern about the future of the SDP movement.50 Ben Sanders, an SDP expert, summarized the concerns:

“[W]hile there is no doubt that the IOC being more centrally involved in SDP is a good thing, there are many valid concerns around the new arrangement. Firstly the move seems to have happened suddenly or with little consultation among a range of stakeholders. Secondly, the IOC seems centrally concerned with elite, organised, competitive, commercial forms of sport. Yes, it does have an emphasis on Olympism and those values, but it can be argued that mega-events such as the Olympics do not always serve the needs of development, which lie at the heart of the SDP movement. In fact, some research shows mega-events may exacerbate existing inequalities.”51

The UNOSDP was established in 2001 by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and was “the entry point to the United Nations system with regard to sport for development and peace.”52 The most recent Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, appointed by UNSG Ban Ki-Moon, was Wilfried Lemke, who served in that role from 2008 until his retirement at the end of 2016. As Special Adviser, Lemke led “the efforts of the UN system at a high political level to promote understanding and support for sport as a tool for development and peace.”53 He was tasked with building bridges “between the UN and Member States, international sports organizations, the civil society, the private sector and the media.”54

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals, followed by the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, provided a focus for the UNOSDP’s work and efforts. When Special Adviser Lemke’s position was extended for another year in early 2015, the UN News noted: “Sport will play a continued and crucial role in the achievement of the new agenda [the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development] and the Special Adviser’s role as advocate and representative of the UN and sport’s role in development is expected will remain of great importance.”55 Later in 2015, with the formal adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the General Assembly, the UN recognized that sport “was an important enabler of sustainable development.”56

UN Announces UNOSDP’s Closure on 4 May 2017; IOC and Xinhua Follow on May 5

The official statement (May 4, 2017) issued by the UN on the shuddering of UNOSDP is so spare in detail that —-read in conjunction with the IOC’s statement and Xinhua’s news report on the closure issued the following day—- raises more questions than it answers. Why the delay of several months to report on this development? Why did a new “direct partnership” with the IOC necessitate the closure of the UNOSDP? And how and why did Xinhua have more to say about the closure than the UN? The official UN statement on the closure:

“The Secretary General has agreed with the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, to establish a direct partnership between the UN and the International Olympic Committee. Accordingly, it was decided to close the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), effective 30 April 2017. The substantive portfolio of the Office on Sport for Development and Peace will henceforth be handled by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).”57

In a press release issued the day after the UN statement, the IOC reported that the new “enhanced cooperation” with the UN was Guterres’ idea:

“The UN Secretary-General had proposed this [i.e., enhanced cooperation] in his meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach in January 2017. In this meeting, both leaders had agreed to establish a ‘direct partnership’ between the UN and the IOC.”58

The IOC press release stated that as a result of the ‘direct partnership,’ “the UN will have direct access to the expertise and know-how of the IOC and its 206 National Olympic Committees, as well as the International Sports Federations.”59 The IOC also spelled out the apparent causal link between the IOC and the UN’s new ‘direct partnership’ and the closure of the UNOSDP: “As a consequence of this decision [i.e., to form a ‘direct partnership’], the UN Secretary-General has decided to close the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP).”60

The IOC statement noted:

“We are enthusiastic about the great potential of this direct partnership with the United Nations and we thank . . . António Guterres for his initiative. This will strengthen the position of sport even more in society and will help sport to fulfil its role as ‘an important enabler of sustainable development’, as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The direct partnership is fully in line with the UN resolution, which ‘supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the IOC in leading the Olympic Movement’,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.”61

While the closure of UNOSDP was significant news to stakeholders in the sport for development movement,62 the shuttering of a small, specialized UN office is not something that would ordinarily be covered by major media outlets. But since the PRC party-state had a direct interest in the UNOSDP’s demise—-with its portfolio being transferred to China-controlled DESA—-and a heightened role for the IOC at the UN would also benefit China, Xinhua reported on the development the day after the UN announcement (May 5).

Xinhua was the only entity to report the closure of UNOSDP as “an apparent cost-saving measure.”63 It further noted that the “last special adviser heading up the office was Wilfried Lemke who ended his eight-year term in December 2016,” and “[i]t could not immediately be determined how many people had worked in the Geneva headquarters of the UNOSDP nor how much money would be saved by closing it.”64

The UN never explained the closure of UNOSDP as a “cost-saving measure,” perhaps because the Office was funded “exclusively through voluntary contributions.”65 The IOC statement notes that the direct partnership “initiative” was Guterres’ idea. But he had only been Secretary-General for a few weeks at the time of the meeting in Geneva. Didn’t Guterres have more pressing matters to attend to, including his own appearance at Davos on January 19, 2017?66 How would a ‘direct partnership’ with the IOC and the closure of the UNOSDP even have been on his radar screen at the beginning of his tenure? And why the long delay after the meeting between Guterres and Bach in Geneva before the UN and IOC press statements were issued?

Timing likely figured prominently in what appears to be a PRC and IOC turf and power grab. Early 2017 was the perfect moment for this gambit: Ban Ki-Moon’s term as Secretary-General ended in December 2016; Special Adviser Lemke retired at the same time. It would be up to Guterres to name a new Special Adviser on SDP, a high-level Under Secretary-General position that reported directly to the UN Secretary-General, and he never did. 67


If the IOC were truly concerned about protecting and promoting human rights it would undertake a comprehensive human-rights based reform, beyond what’s envisaged, for example, in the Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the “strategic roadmap” for the IOC through 2025.68 Having awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing after the human rights debacle of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the IOC has no standing or credibility to claim that the Olympics and Olympism are enablers of human rights and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which are fundamentally grounded on human rights.69 As I’ve argued elsewhere in calling for a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022, the Winter Olympics will serve only to strengthen Xi Jinping’s position and power, and further the CCP’s anti-human rights agenda.70

Like-minded governments and other stakeholders, including news media, athlete activists, and NGOs, should hold the IOC and the Chinese government to account, both at the UN and in Beijing, and take measures to shine a light on, and to mitigate to the extent possible, the human rights impacts of Beijing 2022. How will press freedom be protected in Beijing? The IOC has set a disturbing precedent with its broad Covid-19 related press restrictions for the Tokyo 2020 Games this summer. How will athletes’ freedom of expression, which might well include signs of support for Tibetans and Uyghurs, be protected and respected during the Beijing 2022 Olympics? And how will the privacy and data security rights of athletes and others in Beijing (and Tokyo), be protected as Covid-19 and its variants remain a threat?71

To respect and protect the human rights of all involved, the IOC should have canceled or postponed the Tokyo 2020 Games a second time when it became clear that the pandemic was not under control and the Japanese public and the Tokyo medical establishment were overwhelmingly against holding the Games this summer.72 And the IOC never should have awarded China the 2022 Winter Olympics. Such enormous unaccountable power, the IOC’s and the CCP’s, wasn’t in the past and can’t possibly now be a “force for good.”73

Thanks to Jules Boykoff, Sarah Brooks, Martin Hála, Jichang Lulu, Filip Jirouš, Elizabeth Lynch, Nadège Rolland, Kate Saunders, Teng Biao and Ralph Weber.

  1. The concept note for the “Quadrennial panel discussion on promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal,” as of 17 June 2021, can be accessed via the main page for the 47th regular session of the Human Rights Council. Click on “Panel Discussions,” then click on “Quadrennial panel discussion on promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal,” which pulls up the concept note (as of 17 June 2021) in Word format.↩︎

  2. See concept note, p. 1.↩︎

  3. Ibid.↩︎

  4. Ibid.↩︎

  5. See, e.g., , “习近平同国际奥委会主席巴赫通电话,” 中华人民共和国常驻联合国日内瓦办事处和瑞士其他国际组织代表团, 7 May 2021; “Xi Jinping Speaks with IOC President Thomas Bach on the Phone,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the P.R.C., 7 May 2021; “习近平同国际奥委会主席巴赫通电话,” 常驻联合国日内瓦办事处和瑞士其他国际组织代表团, 25 January 2021; “Xi Jinping Speaks with IOC President Thomas Bach on the Phone,” PRC MFA, 25 January 2021.↩︎

  6. Per the concept note, p. 2: “The list of speakers for the discussion will be established through the online inscription system and, as per practice, statements by high-level dignitaries and groups of States will be moved to the beginning of the list.” The Chinese government, or one of its friends, will likely have a statement of a group of States relating to human rights, the Olympic ideal, and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. See, e.g., Duncan Mackay, “Belarus backs China to host successful Beijing 2022 and condemns politicians calling for boycott,” Inside the Games, 11 June 2021.↩︎

  7. Mari Yamaguchi, “As Tokyo Olympics approach, virus worries rise in Japan,” Associated Press, 6 July 2021; “U.S. media say anti-COVID steps at Olympics go against press freedoms,” Kyodo News, 2 July 2021.↩︎

  8. Ibid.↩︎

  9. Final report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the possibilities of using sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights for all and to strengthen universal respect for them,” UN Human Rights Council, A/HRC/30/50, 17 August 2015, para. 46.↩︎

  10. See the IOC’s website for more information on Olympism (“a philosophy of life, which places sport at the service of humankind”) and its fundamental principles, the three Olympic values (i.e., excellence, friendship, and respect), and “Cooperation with the UN,” accessed 2 July 2021. The “Olympic ideal” (also rendered on occasion as “ideals”) apparently reflects all that is good (and aspirational) about the Olympic Movement and Olympism. See Thomas Bach, “The Olympic Movement, the United Nations, and the Pursuit of Common Ideals,” accessed 2 July 2021 (e.g., “[T]he Refugee Olympic Team stands for the universal values of tolerance, solidarity and peace. It is a reminder of the overall objective of the Olympic Movement—to make the world a better place through sport. [The Team] also highlights the ideals that unite IOC and the United Nations. Both organizations are built on the same foundation of the shared values of tolerance, solidarity and peace. Their common goal is the peaceful development of humankind. These values are at the heart of the Olympic Movement. […] The Olympic Charter specifies that:”The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”↩︎

  11. UN Secretary-General António Guterres took office on 1 January 2017. He was reappointed by the UN General Assembly to serve a second five-year term, which will begin on 1 January 2022—one month before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics. See “Antonio Guterres secures second term as UN Secretary General, calls for new era of ‘solidarity and equality’,” UN News, 18 June 2021.↩︎

  12. Xi Jinping dispensed with term limits in 2018, and Thomas Bach and António Guterres both were recently “reelected” to their positions unopposed. Bach has another four years as president of the IOC. See “Thomas Bach, unopposed, reelected as IOC president until 2025,” Associated Press (via ESPN), 10 March 2021, and Guterres another five years as UNSG starting 1 January 2022. See “Antonio Guterres secures second term…,” op. cit.

    Guterres and Xi Jinping also have a “mutually beneficial” relationship, reflected, e.g., in China’s prompt backing of Guterres after he announced his interest in seeking a second term as UNSG. See “2021年1月21日外交部发言人华春莹主持例行记者会,” MFA, 21 January 2021; “China supports Guterres to run for a second term as UN chief,” CGTN, 21 January 2021. MFA spokesperson Hua Chunying 华春莹 said: “We are ready to work with the international community to continue to support the work of the United Nations and Guterres, to jointly promote the cause of world peace and development and to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”↩︎

  13. The three pillars of the Olympic Agenda 2020 are credibility, sustainability, and youth.↩︎

  14. Beijing 2022 Congratulates Bach on his re-election as IOC president,” Xinhua, 12 March 2021.↩︎

  15. Xi Jinping Speaks with IOC President…,” 25 January 2021, op. cit. I have yet to see a statement from Thomas Bach or the IOC disavowing or “clarifying” any reports from Xinhua or other Chinese state media regarding what they’ve reported Thomas Bach said during phone calls and meetings with Xi and other Chinese officials, or during interviews with Xinhua and other PRC party-state media.↩︎

  16. Zhu Dongyang and Gao Peng, “Feature: President Xi ‘true Olympic champion’ says IOC president,” Xinhua, 19 January 2017. During an interview with Xinhua after Xi Jinping visited IOC headquarters in January 2017, Bach reportedly praised Xi Jinping for being “a great fan of sports,” adding that “this of course for us, the IOC, is most important. […] He really loves sports.” See also, “习近平会见国际奥委会主席巴赫” [Xi Jinping Meets IOC Head Bach], Xinhua, 18 January 2017.↩︎

  17. See, e.g., “Xi Jinping Speaks with IOC President…,” 25 January 2021, op. cit.; “Xi Jinping Speaks with IOC President…,” 7 May 2021, op. cit.; “Xi Focus: President Xi Delivers on Olympic Promises,” Xinhua, 31 January 2021; Andréa Worden, “The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Will be a Glorification of Xi Jinping and the CCP’s Global Agenda; We Must Counter With a Diplomatic Boycott,” China Change, 21 April 2021; Xu Wei, “President: Nation will host ‘clean, pure’ Games,” China Daily, 1 February 2019.↩︎

  18. See, e.g., Justin McCurry, “Tokyo Olympics: anger in Japan at IOC call to make ‘sacrifices’,” The Guardian, 24 May 2021; Stephen Wade and Yuri Kageyama, “IOC VP gets backlash saying Olympics are on, no matter virus,” Associated Press, 23 May 2021.↩︎

  19. Ibid.↩︎

  20. Politicizing Winter Games no-win proposition,” China Daily Global, 10 June 2021.↩︎

  21. Xi Focus…,” op. cit. Mark Dreyer, founder of China Sports Insider, is understandably skeptical about the 300 million number and the recent claim by IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022, that since 2015, over 200 million Chinese people “have engaged in ice and snow activities.” See Mark Dreyer, “Sun Yang Banned for 4+ Years, Will Miss Tokyo Olympics,” China Sports Insider, 27 June 2021. See also 向奥林匹克兑现我们的承诺 [Making good on our Olympic promises], Guangming Daily via Xinhua, 16 December 2020.↩︎

  22. Xi’s state visit to Switzerland took place from January 15 to 18, 2017. An Baijie, “President Xi touches down in Switzerland,” China Daily, 15 January 2017.↩︎

  23. Max Ehrenfreund, “World leaders find hope for globalization in Davos amid populist revolt,” Washington Post, 17 January 2017.↩︎

  24. See Frédéric Burnand, “Xi Jinping: a ‘responsible leader’ in Switzerland?,” Swissinfo.ch, 15 January 2017.↩︎

  25. Xi Jinping, “Das schönste Glück auf Erden,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13 January 2017, translation quoted from Nick Butler, “Chinese Olympic Committee strongly condemns doping problems before Bach and Xi meeting,” Inside the Games, 15 January 2017; “Spotlight: Xi’s signed article earns warm applause in Switzerland,” Xinhua, 14 January 2017.↩︎

  26. Rebecca Ruiz, “Swiss City is ‘the Silicon Valley of Sports’,” New York Times, 22 August 2016; “Chinese President Xi Jinping Arrives in Lausanne for Official Visit to the IOC,” International Olympic Committee, 17 January 2017. The IOC refers to Lausanne as the Olympic Capital, see “Historic visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping emphasizes strong ties with the IOC,” IOC, 18 January 2017.↩︎

  27. Chinese President Xi Jinping Arrives…,” op. cit.↩︎

  28. Ibid.↩︎

  29. IOC, “Historic visit by Chinese president…,” op. cit.↩︎

  30. Chinese President Xi Jinping in Lausanne for Official Visit to the IOC,” IOC Media via YouTube, 19 January 2017.↩︎

  31. IOC, “Historic visit by Chinese president…,” op. cit. Emphasis added.↩︎

  32. Nick Butler, “Chinese President visits IOC to discuss development of sport and Beijing 2022,” Inside the Games, 18 January 2017 (noting that the IOC circulated Xi’s statement after the visit); “Spotlight: Xi steps up sport diplomacy with historic visit to IOC,” Xinhua, 19 January 2017. See also “从洛桑到崇礼:习近平冰天雪地话冬奥” [From Lausanne to Chongli: Xi Jinping talks about the Winter Olympics], Xinhua, 24 January 2017.↩︎

  33. Zhu and Gao , op. cit.↩︎

  34. Ibid.↩︎

  35. Ibid.↩︎

  36. Jonathan Fenby, “Xi Jinping: The man who’ll lead China into a new age,” The Observer, 6 November 2010; see also Richard McGregor, Xi Jinping: The Backlash (Lowy Institute, 2019), p. 63.↩︎

  37. Lou Xiaoqi 娄晓琪 et al., “习近平的奥林匹克文化情怀与文明愿景” [Xi Jinping’s Feelings about Olympic Culture and Vision of Civilization], 文明杂志 [Civilization], 26 March 2018, via 国家体育总局 [General Administration of Sport of China].↩︎

  38. David Bond, “Jacques Rogge: Departing IOC chief transformed Olympic body,” BBC, 9 September 2013.↩︎

  39. Chinese president meets Olympic chief Bach,” Xinhua via China Daily, 19 November 2013; Isaac Stone Fish, “Stop Calling Xi Jinping ’President,’” Slate, 8 August 2019 (Xi’s three key titles do not include “president”: his title as head of the People’s Republic of China “translates as chairman of the country” (guojia zhuxi 国家主席). The author argues that “president” is a mistranslation, which serves to legitimize Xi’s decidedly undemocratic rule. See also Javier Hernández, “China’s ‘Chairman of Everything’: Behind Xi Jinping’s Many Titles,” New York Times, 25 October 2017 (noting that the PRC government has been translating the title “state chairman” (guojia zhuxi 国家主席 ) as “president” since 1982).↩︎

  40. 习近平会见国际奥委会主席巴赫并接受奥林匹克金质勋章” [Xi Jinping meets Olympic chief Bach and receives Olympic Order in Gold], Xinhua, 19 November 2013; “Chinese president meets Olympic chief Bach,” op. cit.↩︎

  41. Activities of Secretary-General in Switzerland, 17-19 January 2017,” UN Press Release SG/T/3148, 30 January 2017. Guterres, who assumed the post of UNSG on January 1, went to Davos for the World Economic Forum on January 19; Xi was in Davos on January 17. United Nations Secretary-General (António Guterres) Biography, UN, n.d.↩︎

  42. Xi Jinping, “Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind,” Speech at UN Office at Geneva, 18 January 2017, (Chinese version: “习近平主席在联合国日内瓦总部的演讲(全文),” China.org.cn, 25 January 2017). On the original translation of mingyun gongtongti 命运共同体 as “community of common destiny”, and noting the subsequent change to “community of shared future” as the “preferred official English translation,” see Nadège Rolland, “Beijing’s Vision for a Reshaped International Order,” China Brief 18:3 (16 February 2018).↩︎

  43. Authors notes, on file with author.↩︎

  44. António Guterres, “Remarks at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum” [in Beijing], 14 May 2017.↩︎

  45. See, e.g., Andréa Worden, “China Pushes ‘Human Rights with Chinese Characteristics’ at the UN,” China Change, 9 October 2017; Andréa Worden, “The 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum: China Gathers Steam in its Bid to Redefine the Concept of Human Rights,” China Change, 19 February 2020; Andréa Worden, “China’s win-win at the Human Rights Council: Just not for human rights,” Sinopsis, 28 May 2020.↩︎

  46. U.N., International Olympic Committee Set Up Partnership, Leading to Close of U.N. Sport Office,” Highlights of the Noon Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Thursday, 4 May 2017. For discussion and analysis of China’s influence at DESA, and more broadly at the UN, Secretary-General Guterres’ relationship with Xi Jinping and the CCP and his promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative, see, e.g., Colum Lynch, “China Enlists U.N. to Promote Its Belt and Road Project,” Foreign Policy, 10 May 2018; Sinopsis and Jichang Lulu, “United Nations with Chinese Characteristics: Elite Capture and Discourse Management on a global scale,” Sinopsis, 25 June 2018; Andréa Worden, “The CCP at the UN: Redefining development and rights,” Sinopsis, 17 March 2019.↩︎

  47. Norman Brook, “Replacing the UNOSDP with IOC Commission may strengthen SDP sector,” International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 24 May 2017; “Public Affairs and Social Development Through Sport,” IOC, accessed 3 July 2021. Cf. Marc Probst and Paul Hunt, “The quiet demise of the UNOSDP: Where do we go from here?”, International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 15 May 2017.↩︎

  48. See, e.g., David Given-Sjölander, “The slow demise of the UNOSDP and the rise of Olympism,” International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org )19 June 2017; James Rose, Post-UNOSDP – Is the IOC’s fool’s gold?“, International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 20 June 2017; Gabriel Tabona,”Forming alliances to maintain sports for development in the UN System,” International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 22 May 2017.↩︎

  49. Antonio Guterres, “Remarks to the press following his meeting with Mr. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee” (in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea), UN, 9 February 2018. For an excellent discussion of the history and dynamics of the IOC-UN relationship, see Travis Nelson and M. Patrick Cottrell, “Sport without referees? The power of the International Olympic Committee and the social politics of accountability,” European Journal of International Relations, 30 June 2015.↩︎

  50. See, e.g., Brook, op. cit.; Probst and Hunt, op. cit. See also “The Closure of the UNOSDP,” sportanddev.org, n.d (but after 4 May 2017, when the closure of the office was announced by the UN); Ben Sanders, “Dropping the ball – critiquing the recent closure of the UNOSDP,” sportanddev.org, 11 July 2017; Mariam Barocz-Bencsik and Tamas Doczi, “Mapping Sport for Development and Peace as Bourdieu’s Field,” Physical Culture and Sport, Studies and Research 81 (2019), pp. 7, 10, via International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 16 May 2019. Some reports have suggested that the UNOSDP was floundering and had lost momentum before it was shut down by Guterres. See, e.g., Given-Sjölander, op. cit.; Iain Lindsey, “Identifying issues for global SDP leadership after the UNOSDP closure”, International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org),19 June 2017.↩︎

  51. Sanders, op. cit. See also Jules Boykoff, NOlympians: Inside the Fight Against Capitalist Mega-Sports in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beyond (Fernwood Publishing, 2020).↩︎

  52. About the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace,” International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org) n.d., accessed 4 July 2021.↩︎

  53. Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace: Backgrounder,” UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, n.d. (after 18 March 2008), accessed 4 July 2021.↩︎

  54. Ibid.↩︎

  55. Wilfried Lemke reappointed as UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development, Peace,” UN News, 6 January 2015.↩︎

  56. Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” UN General Assembly, A/Res/70/1, adopted 25 September 2015, para. 37: “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”↩︎

  57. U.N., International Olympic Committee Set Up Partnership, Leading to Close of U.N. Sport Office,” Highlights of the Noon Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Thursday, 4 May 2017. The statement also says: “The Secretary-General has requested the United Nations Office at Geneva to oversee the closure arrangements of UNOSDP. He wishes to express his appreciation for the dedicated service provided by the staff of the Office on Sport for Development and Peace.”↩︎

  58. IOC Welcomes Enhancement of Close Cooperation with the United Nations,” IOC News, 5 May 2017.↩︎

  59. Ibid. And because China-controlled DESA took over the substantive portfolio of the closed UNOSDP, this meant in effect, that the PRC would have this heightened access, too.↩︎

  60. Ibid.↩︎

  61. Ibid. The General Assembly resolution that Bach referred to is titled “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace,” (A/RES/69/6), 31 October 2014, operative paragraph 8 (the General Assembly “supports the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic movement”). This language appears again in subsequent General Assembly resolutions on this topic.↩︎

  62. See, e.g., Statement of the sportanddev.org Steering Board, “A call for action following the closure of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace” (UNOSDP),” International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev.org), 19 June 2017. The Steering Board’s statement explained, “The office, with its special advisor, had been an important high-level representative of the sport and development sector since 2001, coordinating the sport-related work of different UN agencies. It had the ability to reach across different topics and to unite various actors including international organisations, civil society and governments.”; Probst and Hunt, op. cit.↩︎

  63. UN chief announces closure of UNOSDP,” Xinhua, 5 May 2017.↩︎

  64. Ibid.↩︎

  65. See Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 December 2016, A/RES/71/160, distributed 19 January 2017, “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace” (Chinese version: 体育促进教育, 健康, 发展与和平), operative paragraph 20 (noting that the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace is “funded exclusively through voluntary contributions” and encouraging Member States and other stakeholders to voluntarily contribute to the Trust Fund for Sport for Development and Peace and otherwise support the work of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace and the activities of the Office).↩︎

  66. At Davos forum, UN chief Guterres calls businesses ‘best allies’ to curb climate change, poverty,” UN News, 19 January 2017.↩︎

  67. Wilfried Lemke was named Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace by UNSG Ban Ki-moon in March 2008, and reported directly to him through the end of his term in December 2016. See “Ban Ki-moon appoints new envoy to promote sport for development and peace,” UN News, 18 March 2018.↩︎

  68. IOC, “IOC Session approves Olympic Agenda 2020+5 as the strategic roadmap to 2025,” 12 March 2021.↩︎

  69. See discussion in Worden, “The CCP at the UN…,” op. cit.↩︎

  70. Worden, “The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics…,” op. cit.↩︎

  71. The group of US sports editors who wrote a letter protesting the overbroad Covid-19 press restrictions also raised privacy and security concerns about a Japanese government-developed smartphone app that collected health information in a nontransparent manner. See “U.S. media say anti-Covid steps…,” op. cit.↩︎

  72. Yamaguchi, op. cit.↩︎

  73. China: Hosting Olympics a Catalyst for Human Rights Abuses,” Human Rights Watch, 22 August 2008.↩︎