TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Swedish speed skater Nils van der Poel, who won two gold medals at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, on Sunday (Feb. 13) condemned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as being "extremely irresponsible" in handing over the games to a country that "violates human rights as blatantly" as China does.
25-year-old Nils van der Poel took gold in the men's 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter speed skating competitions at the 2022 Winter Olympics, setting the world record in the latter. Prior to his trip to Beijing, Van de Poel had told Swedish media, "I don’t think it would be particularly wise for me to criticize the system I’m about to transition to, if I want to live a long and productive life."
However, when he returned to Sweden on Sunday, he told Swedish sports newspaper Sporbladet that he thinks the situation in Beijing is "terrible" but emphasized that he did not want to say too much since there are still Swedish athletes in China. He compared the games to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
He said that the Olympics is a "fantastic sporting event where you unite the world and nations meet," but he added that "so did Hitler before invading Poland, and so did Russia before invading Ukraine," referring to the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the invasion of Ukrainian territory in Crimea by Russia in 2014.
As for Beijing's hosting of the Winter Games, Van de Poel said, "I think it is extremely irresponsible to give it to a country that violates human rights as blatantly as the Chinese regime is doing."
When asked if he had discussed his opinions with fellow athletes while in Beijing, he said that they were "focused on being athletes" and there was not much mention of global politics. As for the Olympic Village, he said, "It was very nice, the Chinese people I met were absolutely amazing."