WTA’s decision is a backward step rooted in political speculation
Published: Dec 02, 2021 09:57 PM
WTA Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Steve Simon, chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), announced Wednesday the “immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong.” He said the decision was made “with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors” amid concerns about the safety of the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. 

In fact, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, no international sports events were held in China last or this year, and all WTA tournaments were canceled in China. Till now, only the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing as scheduled. Even if the WTA did not cancel events in China, it is highly likely those tournaments could not go ahead due to the continuing epidemic. 

Simon is boycotting in a high profile manner some events that only have a slim chance of being held. For one thing, it will not bring additional economic losses to the WTA, for another, it can garner attention from Western countries for himself and the WTA, shaping Simon and the WTA as a “hero team” that defends the so-called human rights. This is regarded as very cost-effective political business in the West. 

Sports matters should be considered from the perspective of sports. Its positive impact on human society is achieved through communication between people of different cultural backgrounds. Such exchanges facilitate mutual understanding and respect, as well as mutual learning and integration. During the Cold War, incidents of exploiting sports as a bargaining chip for political confrontation repeatedly took place. As a result, the US in 1980 led a boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. And the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. These incidents severely impaired the spirit of the Olympics and intensified global turmoil, leaving a profound lesson for the world.

Some forces in the West are instigating a boycott against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Their call has been unanimously opposed by the International Olympic Committee, national Olympic committees of various countries and the majority of athletes across the world. It is a foregone conclusion that the Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing as scheduled. A few countries such as the US are planning not to send officials to attend the event. They have only gained a small level of support, and this will not affect the successful holding of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The WTA’s management displayed radicalism that is contrary to the above-mentioned situation in the Beijing Winter Olympics. They refused to believe Peng’s narrative on her personal situation in the video call with International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach. The WTA asserted that Peng is not free, and has been coerced. The WTA has acted as a lever of Western public opinion against China’s political system. To this end, they repeat the old tricks and once again set the precedent of boycotting sports events for political purposes. This creates new uncertainties for international sports.

The WTA has put on an exaggerated show. Their pursuit of “political correctness” is surely top-notch even among Western politicians. To further hype the case, the WTA even disclosed some private information about Peng. It is the WTA which claimed Peng’s assurance that “everything is fine” is not credible, and it has been pushing accusations over and over again that she was acting. The WTA’s actions are seriously coercing Peng. 

Such coercion has deprived Peng of freedom of expression, forcing her to complain in accordance with the imagination and expectations of Western public opinion, fabricating that she has lost her freedom. Peng is an athlete who is destined to be connected with the West. The message the WTA sent to her is that as long as she wants to satisfy the West, she will have to endorse the latter’s accusations against China. 

The world is undergoing new divisions among major powers, and politics is infiltrating more and more areas. The WTA is expanding its influence in a speculative way. They are bringing politics into women’s tennis deeply, and they are setting a bad example for the entire sporting world. They are opening a Pandora’s box. They are betrayers of the Olympic spirit.