Purcell: Why silent about China?

Published 11:06 am Friday, February 11, 2022

It’s possibly the only scandal we are allowed to discuss.

In 2015, the peaceful and tiny world of competitive curling was rocked by a broom kerfuffle that sent the ancient sport reeling.

Curling — which is currently getting its quadrennial global TV exposure at the Winter Olympics in Beijing — is a civilized, non-violent sport invented in 16th Scotland.

As described by Britannica, in curling two teams of four players compete by sliding heavy stones — concave on the bottom with a handle on the top — across the ice with the goal of each team getting its stone closest to the center tee or button.

Each player takes turns delivering two stones, while two other members of the team use brooms to sweep the “pebbled” ice — thus altering the ice’s smoothness and temperature — to guide or “curl” the stones to their desired destination.

The sport’s jovial nature turned bitter in 2015 when some players began using brooms with advanced fibers and brush-head inserts that significantly enhanced their ability to alter the stone’s course.

Smithsonianmag.org reports that, according to critics, the rougher fabric on the new broom heads “can too easily change the way a curling stone moves down the ice, negating the precise moves and strategies that players use.”

A fierce hullaballoo resulted.

“The resulting explosion caused a stream of accusations, agreements, broken agreements … even some near-fisticuffs,” reports theCurlingnews.com.

Some players conducted on-ice experiments to show that the new brooms made it so much easier to alter the direction of the stones that a team of hack amateurs could use them to outplay a team of seasoned pros.

The World Curling Federation addressed and resolved their broom scandal with grace and transparency and today there’s one standard fabric used for all brushes in sanctioned championship events.

I bring up the “Great Curling Scandal of 2015” because that minor scandal was fully debated and settled out in the open.

Compare that to the major scandal going on right now at the Winter Olympics in China — where oppressive behavior by a dictatorial government is a daily reality for 1.4 billion citizens.

As the autocrats in communist China commit genocide on Uyghur Muslims, punish dissidents and jail or “disappear” any citizens bold enough to criticize their government’s repressive policies, the expected response is silence — by everyone.

The International Olympic Committee and political and business leaders are eager for the world to look the other way.

We don’t want to upset the people in charge of the fastest growing consumer market in the world, after all, when our global corporations, our politicians investing in China-related stocks and many others like Nike and the NBA have so much money to make there.

Athletes competing in the winter games, who routinely use their public platforms to criticize wrongs in open countries, are warned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that their safety may be at risk if they criticize China’s policies.

The best our spineless political leaders could do to protest China’s notorious human and civil rights violations was cobble together a diplomatic boycott that will keep an official U.S. government delegation at home.

Meanwhile, this loud silence about China’s genuinely scandalous actions is beyond shameful.

It allows its autocrats to use the Olympics to polish its international status while the IOC and global leaders skirt a golden opportunity to use the Olympics to spotlight China’s abuses and demand change.

As I said, the curling scandal of 2015 is possibly the last scandal we are allowed to discuss.

 Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Send comments to Tom at tom@tompurcell.com.