Olympians have been warned about publicly sharing their opinions while competing at the 2022 Beijing Games in communist China, while the FBI has issued an advisory on cyber threats.
The Beijing Games deputy director general, Yang Shu, issued a stark warning last month, detailing that commentary on any of China’s human rights abuses would be considered “against the Olympic spirit” and could be a punishable offense.
Human rights groups have encouraged athletes to stay mum about Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the forced labor and genocide of the Uyghur’s in the Xinjiang province.
The chair of the Winter Olympics Athletes’ Commission, former two-time gold medalist Yang Yang, claimed that athletes would be allowed to speak freely, as long as they did not protest on the winner’s podium, but her statement came off like a warning instead of an encouragement of free expression.
She said that IOC Rule 50 is very clear “about the freedom of speech for athletes, what kind of expressions they can make, at what time, during what events. Athletes are role models for the world and there is a lot of attention on them. They have their opinions and if they want to share that, that is important.”
While Olympians are barred from voicing “their opinions” at medal ceremonies, they are free to “express their opinions” at press conferences and interviews. “But athletes need to be responsible for what they say,” Yang concluded.
In addition to holding their tongues, Olympic committees from around the world have issued warnings that athletes should avoid downloading apps on their personal electronics to avoid cyber attacks.
The FBI advised Team USA to leave their personal phones at home and buy burner phones to use at the Olympic games, as the “use of applications, including those required to participate or stay in [the] country, could increase the opportunity for cyber actors to steal personal information or install tracking tools, malicious code, or malware.”