A year ago, almost to the day, I was sitting in my hotel room in Lausanne writing an interview I had just done with an Alibaba executive called Chris Tung.
I mention this for two reasons.
1. This means that a year has passed since my last posting abroad to in games, and so since I last physically met many Olympic decision makers we write about regularly.
2. It was there that I first understood how involved the Chinese e-commerce giant was in the key processes of the Olympic machine, not only merchandising, but also ticketing and the critical activity consisting to get content – the right content – from Olympic arenas to screens, be it TVs, tablets or mobiles.
At the time, this partnership with the company founded by one of the world’s best-known business leaders, Jack Ma, was a prime example of what the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, could call it “win-win”.
Lausanne had access to Alibabas cloud computing technology and digital expertise; Alibaba has achieved global visibility associated with its association with the Olympics.
But then, in the final months of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic dominated world affairs, Ma fell at fault with the Chinese strongman, President Xi Jinping.
This leaves the IOC, with all of its other current issues, faced with the prospect of overseeing a Winter Olympics in Xis Beijing in just over a year with its most prominent Chinese trading partner, in conflict with the government. host.
How Lausanne should expect the Ma-Xi showdown to be resolved by then.
The fixation on Tokyo 2020 and COVID is practically monopolizing the attention right now – that’s understandable enough.
But a slew of Beijing 2022 messaging issues are piling up for the IOC, and the interval between events, if they go as planned, is less than six months.
The pressure on China’s alleged treatment of the Uyghur people is clearly not going to go away.
There are also no complaints about Beijing’s management of Hong Kong, Tibet or Taiwan for that matter.
And then there’s the uncertain trajectory, under a new president of the United States, of growing trade tensions between the world’s main economic superpower and the nation it increasingly sees as its most serious rival.
Ongoing human rights and free speech issues across China should not be left off the list either.
Or the question of athletes and podium events.
Faced with this small batch, I fail to see how a sporting event featuring sports including much of the world outside of North America, the frozen north, the European Alps and, to some extent, the Northeast Asia cares little, will drown. background noise.
Of course, I had the same feeling before Beijing 2008 that politics would distract from the main event.
In fact, the caliber of the sport that has been served has largely confused these expectations.
But it was the Summer Games, with sports in which almost every country in the world is genuinely invested.
It was also President Hu Jintao’s China and “peaceful rise” diplomacy that encouraged the idea that the country’s spectacular economic progress was not a real threat to Western interests, on the contrary.
I have to say, I think it’s entirely possible that Beijing is bumping up against Ma, Alibaba and Ant, a financial technology company also founded by Ma that has been set for the biggest initial public offering of shares in the world. The history of financial markets until the listing is unexpectedly suspended, can be done and dusted off before Bach’s Olympic circus hits the ground.
One possible analogy is the Russian clash between another strongman, President Vladimir Putin and businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, although the Chinese crackdown would have to escalate massively to justify any real comparison to this saga.
But another point of comparison could be provided by the type of lawsuits in Europe and the United States against other tech groups.
Entrepreneurs have played a large role in the extraordinary economic success that underpins Xis ‘growing international weight, and Mas’ innovative excellence in business start-ups has made China a true pioneer in e-commerce.
What the Chinese Communist Party seems reluctant to tolerate is an attempt to encroach upon what it sees as the realm of government policy.
Of all the IOC-related issues in Beijing 2022, Xi vs. Ma is the storm that erupted most suddenly and unexpectedly.
As a result, it doesn’t seem out of bounds that the storm clouds could dissipate just as quickly, or even that Lausanne could play a small role in facilitating such an outcome.
The geopolitical outlook seems so treacherous right now, even though US President Donald Trump is on the verge of leaving the scene, the sport sadly seems almost the last thing to be remembered about Beijing 2022.
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