The inspirations of the Beijing Winter Olympics for interstate relations

By Yi Xin

Of all the foreign dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan stands out for having been a sportsman himself before entering politics. But his high expectations for the Beijing Games come not only from his passion for the sport, but also from the unbreakable bond between Pakistan and China. His visit to China shows his love and passion for sport as well as the solidarity between the two countries.

In Pakistan, popular passion has been kindled by the Winter Games. The country has high mountains with great ski slopes. The China-assisted Karakoram Highway connects northern Pakistan with other parts of the country, allowing people to explore winter sports in the north. The Pakistan team also participated in the Beijing Winter Games, with athlete Muhammad Karim competing in the slalom event.

The Olympic Games have the power to bring people together. As the curtain falls on Beijing 2022, people are beginning to savor the many moments that capture the essence of the Games. In many ways, what happened at the Winter Games may well serve as a microcosm for interstate relations. Our world would certainly be a better place if countries could learn a thing or two from their athletes.

Iall together rather than a zero-sum game

We are inspired by the sportsmanship frequently displayed during the games – pure joy and elation for the excellent performance of other competitors. These moments go beyond competition and show what the Olympics are really about: not a zero-sum game to beat other athletes, but really to become better yourself.

This contains some truth for state-to-state relations. Preventing others from catching up economically, militarily and technologically is not as good as improving to stay one step ahead. In this era of globalization, the interests of countries are intertwined, and small steps forward in one part of the world can bring a big step forward for all of humanity. China and Pakistan have provided good examples in this regard. Despite great differences in history, culture and national circumstances, our two countries have supported each other not only in times of peace and prosperity, but also in the face of growing challenges. It’s a relationship characterized by unwavering mutual support, mutual trust and mutual respect, rain or shine.

Openness and respect

The gathering of athletes from around the world provides an opportunity for understanding, respect and friendship regardless of national, cultural or racial differences. When Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion, failed to land the incredible quadruple axis, or “4A” during his performance, he was cheered on by spectators at the venue and around the world.

Such open-mindedness and respect are all the more necessary at a time when cocoons of information are making people increasingly close. To be known, to be heard, to be seen as equal and dignified – these are shared desires even in international politics. World affairs should be discussed and decided by countries working together. This is the fundamental principle of multilateralism.

Together for a shared future

Despite the raging pandemic, the Beijing Winter Games went ahead as planned, which in itself is a remarkable display of global unity, as the Olympic motto suggests. The Organizing Committee could not have staged such a successful Games without the strong support of all participating teams, the IOC, the World Health Organization and many other international organizations. Such cooperation is in itself a boost for multilateral diplomacy. Its positive fallout will go a long way in strengthening global solidarity as humanity faces myriad challenges, from coronavirus to climate change and terrorism.

In many ways, the global village we live in is reminiscent of the Olympic village for athletes. As IOC President Thomas Bach said at the opening ceremony, “it is possible to be fierce rivals, while living together in peace and respect”. This message must not escape politicians and decision-makers around the world.

As the Beijing Winter Games draw to a close, the lasting value of the Olympic Games cannot be measured in gold, silver or bronze. Rather, they are found in the brotherhood of athletes, who have gathered in Beijing from the ends of the Earth in pursuit of excellence. We shouldn’t let the heartwarming moments pass us by, but rather embrace the power of sport to connect us all.

Before the opening of the Beijing Games, some Pakistani teenagers created short videos to wish Beijing 2022 success. This is just a small example of these Winter Olympics acting as a unifying force between countries. In a fractured world, we need more spirit of solidarity, just like that between China and Pakistan, to pursue a better and shared future for humanity.

The author is a Beijing-based international affairs observer.