Author: Yi Xin
Among all foreign dignitaries that attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan stands out for being a sportsman himself before entering politics. But his high expectation for the Beijing Games not only comes from his passion for sports but also grows out of the ironclad bond between Pakistan and China. His visit to China shows his love and passion for sports as well as solidarity between the two countries.
In Pakistan, people’s passion has been ignited by the Winter Games. The country has high mountains with great skiing slopes. The China-assisted Karakoram Highway links northern Pakistan to other parts of the country, making it convenient for people to explore winter sports in the north. Team Pakistan has also competed in the Beijing Winter Games,with athlete Muhammad Karim participating in the slalom event.
The Olympic Games have the power of bringing people together. As the curtain falls for Beijing 2022, people begin to relish 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 inter-state relations. Our world would certainly be a better place if countries could learn a thing or two from their athletes.
Lifting all together rather than a zero-sum game
We are inspired by the sportsmanship frequently on display during the games – pure joy and elation for other competitors’ excellent performance. These moments go beyond the competition and exhibit what the Olympics truly is: not a zero-sum game to take other athletes down but really to become one’s better self.
This holds some truth for state-to-state relations. Keeping others from catching up economically, militarily, technologically is not as good as bettering oneself to stay ahead of the curve. In this age of globalization, countries’ interests are intertwined, and small steps forward in one part of the world may bring a big step forward for all humanity. China and Pakistan set good examples in this regard. Despite the vast differences in history, culture and national circumstances, our two countries have stood with each other not only in times of peace and prosperity but also in the face of rising challenges. It is a relationship characterized by unwavering mutual support, mutual trust and mutual respect, come rain or shine.
Openness and respect
The gathering of athletes from throughout the world provides an opportunity for understanding, respect and friendship without concern for national, cultural or racial differences. When the Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion, failed to land the impossibly difficult quadruple axel, or “4A” during his performance, he earned applause from the spectators both on the venue and across the world.
Such open-mindedness and respect is more needed at a time when information cocoons are making people increasingly parochial. To be known, to be heard, to be seen as equal and worthy – these are shared desires even in international politics. World affairs should be discussed and decided by countries working together. This is the basic tenet of multilateralism.
Together for a shared future
Despite the raging pandemic, the Beijing Winter Games has been hosted as scheduled, which in itself is a remarkable demonstration of global togetherness, as suggested by the Olympic motto. The Organizing Committee could not have put together such successful Games without the strong support of all participating teams, the IOC, the World Health Organization and many other international organizations. Such cooperation in itself is a boost to multilateral diplomacy. Its positive spillovers will go a long way in enhancing global solidarity as humanity battles a myriad of challenges, from the coronavirus to climate change and to terrorism.
In many ways, the global village we live in is not unlike the Olympic Village for athletes. As IOC President Thomas Bach said at the opening ceremony, “it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together.” This message should not be lost on politicians and decision-makers anywhere in the world.
As the Beijing Winter Games draw to an end,the enduring value of the Olympic Games cannot be measured in gold, silver or bronze. Rather, they are found in the brotherhood of athletes,who gathered in Beijing from the ends of the Earth in pursuit of excellence. We should not let the heartwarming moments pass,but instead embrace the power of sport to connect us all.
Prior to the opening of the Beijing Games, some Pakistani teenage students created short videos to wish the success of Beijing 2022. This is just one small example of this Winter Olympic 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 shared, better future of mankind.
The author is a Beijing-based observer of international affairs.