Nils van der Poel of Sweden went to Beijing and absolutely dominated at the National Speed Skating Oval, winning two speedskating gold medals and setting a world record.
However, before returning to his home country, the double gold medalist offered some scathing parting words about the decision to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, calling it “terrible” and “extremely irresponsible.”, according to USATODAY.
“I really think it’s terrible, but I think I shouldn’t say too much about it, because we still have a squad in China,” van der Poel told SportBladet in an interview translated from Swedish to English.
“The Olympics is a lot, it’s a fantastic sporting event where you unite the world and nations meet. But so did Hitler before invading Poland (Berlin hosted the 1936 Summer Games), and so did Russia before invading Ukraine (Sochi hosted the 2014 Winter Games).
“I think it is extremely irresponsible to give it to a country that violates human rights as blatantly as the Chinese regime is doing.”
Van der Poel, who won gold medals in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter speedskating events, setting a world record in the latter, was very complementary of the Chinese people he came into contact with while staying at the Olympic Village.
“The Olympic Village was very nice,” van der Poel said. “The Chinese people I met were absolutely amazing. I had a very nice experience behind the scenes.”
The human rights violations that van der Poel is alluding to are allegations of extreme mistreatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese government that the U.S. State Department has called genocide and cited as ongoing “crimes against humanity.” The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group native to Xinjiang in western China. These allegations are among the reasons why the United States diplomatically boycotted the Beijing Games.