Olympics Best Bets: US Boycott of Beijing Games Pegged as a Longshot

Calls for an international boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics have gained momentum in the wake of recent comments made by Joe Biden that suggest the United States is considering a diplomatic boycott of the games. However, the US president fell well short of a commitment to a full blown Olympic boycott. As a result, the odds of the United States decided to not send its athletes to next February’s Games in Beijing, China sit at a lengthy +800 in Entertainment betting at Bovada.

MyTopSportsbooks takes a look at all the odds and trends as speculation about a possible Olympic boycott heats up. Sports bettors getting in on betting action for the first time should refer to our online tools and guides to learn all they need to know about betting on Beijing Olympics 2022.

Americans Respond to Chinese Human Rights Violations

Biden’s plans to impose a diplomatic boycott come in the wake of the United States’ successful bid to dominate the medal count at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year. More importantly, it comes in response to a growing number of moves by the government of Chinese leader Xi Jinping that have raced the ire of critics in the West. These include the recent harsh crackdown on political opponents in Hong Kong, as well as the ongoing violent mistreatment of that nation’s Uyghur Muslim minority, who have reportedly been subject to incarceration in concentration camps, and used as slave labor in their home region of Xinjiang.

Tensions have also remained high in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which many in the West believe was caused by a leak at a research facility in Wuhan, and subsequently covered up by the Chinese government. Despite the rising tensions, and growing likelihood of a diplomatic boycott that would preclude attendance at the Beijing Games by Biden or any member of his regime, the odds of the Americans electing to send their athletes to China in February remain pegged at a short -2500.

Olympic Boycotts Nothing New

Of course, Olympic boycotts are far more commonplace than what many people think. The first major boycott of the modern Olympics took place in 1956, when Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Cambodia elected to stay home to protest the invasion of Egypt by France, Great Britain, and Israel in response to Egyot’s seizure of the Suez Canal. Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland also boycotted in response to participation by the Soviet Union in the wake of their violent quelling of the Hungarian Revolution.

The 1976 Summer Olympics also went ahead despite seeing 29 countries, mostly from Africa, pull out in protest of New Zealand’s participation after the Kiwis’ national rugby team took part in a tour of South Africa, defying a UN call for an embargo of that country due to its policies of apartheid.

The trend towards boycotts continued in 1980, when the United States led a 24-nation boycott of the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. The Soviets responded by leading a boycott of their own four years later, when 14 countries elected to stay home from the Summer Olympics in 1984.

Canada, Western Europe Join Call for Boycott

The United States is not the only nation floating the idea of imposing at least a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics. In addition to widespread human rights violations against the Uyghurs, China has also been accused of wrongdoing in the recent disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai, whose whereabouts are unknown after she publicly accused a high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party of sexual assault.

Peng’s disappearance and possible detention opens recent wounds for Canadians still smarting from China’s recent illegal imprisonment of Canadian nationals Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, which lasted almost three years. Representatives of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has amused about the possibility of his country retaliating with some form of Olympic boycott.

However, expectations are low that the Canadian government will follow through with any measures against China, considering Trudeau’s past comments expressing admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship” and his continued insistence at avoiding any inflammatory rhetoric when the topic of Chinese human rights abuses are raised. That is reflected on the odds at Bovada, where Canada sits alongside the USA as a +800 longshot to participate in a boycott.

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Will Canada Boycott the Beijing Olympics
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-2500
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Norway the Best Bet to Snub Beijing

That trend also extends to America’s European allies. One of the few Western countries not to participate in the USA’s boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, Great Britain is also knotted with Canada and USA at +800. Elsewhere in Europe, France, Germany, and Netherlands each sport the longest odds of participating in a boycott, at +900.

However, the attitude appears to be shifting in Norway, where a growing number of politicians and human rights activists are leading the call for a widespread boycott. A traditional winter sport powerhouse, Norway finished atop the table with 109 total medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, and the country’s absence would deal a severe blow to the legitimacy and prestige of the 2022 Games. But with the rumor mill suggesting Norway is potentially positioning itself for a run at hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics, the likelihood of the Scandinavian country going it alone with a boycott are small, diminishing the value of their relatively short +750 odds.

Best Bet: Norway to not boycott (-2000)

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Sean Maloney

Sean Maloney is an experienced writer, first starting out in the tech industry then pursuing his passion as a sports writer. He has a great interest in North American sports and strangely is also a keen darts fan. He spends his time focused on his work and family, with much of his free time spent with his twin daughters.