On Tuesday, for the first time since the founding of the modern Games, the Olympic motto was amended in advance of Friday's Opening Ceremonies.
It's now "Faster, Stronger, Higher — Together."
In announcing the addition of "together," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said, "This is a milestone in our development and sends a clear signal: We want to put a special focus on solidarity."
Solidarity is an important Olympic ideal. But true solidarity needs to extend beyond the Olympics and reflects the political movement, however halting, toward a more universal respect for human rights.
That's why it was welcome news that the IOC also announced this week that Brisbane, Australia, would be the site of the 2032 Summer Olympic Games. It will follow Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028, as well as the 2026 Winter Games in Milano Cortina, Italy — all located in democracies committed to human rights at home and abroad.
So too is Tokyo, where the Olympic flame is now lit. Sure, it's aflame in controversy over whether the already pandemic-postponed Games should have been canceled. But there should not be any dispute that Japan was a suitable, even ideal, place for the games, with its capital's competent and completed Olympic infrastructure and, most important, its status as a vital democracy with a respect for human rights.
The same, of course, cannot be said about Beijing, which will host the 2022 Winter Games on many of the same sites as the 2008 Summer Games.
That nation's heinous human rights record includes its treatment of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's west, which the Trump administration rightly labeled a genocide. Its regional aggression has only worsened with the country's economic ascension, belying one of the original reasons to integrate the country into international institutions like the World Trade Organization. Indeed, despite initial hopes, China has become more, not less, repressive.
In the same manner, the Soviet Union's behavior didn't improve after Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Games. And just weeks after Russia hosted the 2018 Winter Games in Sochi, it invaded Crimea.
The IOC pledges that "at all times, the IOC recognizes and upholds human rights, as enshrined in both the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics." In many instances this is true, including the IOC's admirable advocacy of the Olympic Refugee Team.
Awarding the Games to Australia — as well as the U.S., France and Italy — also reflects this value.
Returning to China does not.
To be sure, part of the problem was that multiple 2022 host-city candidates dropped out, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, another nondemocracy with a dodgy human-rights record, as contenders.
New processes intended to avoid this fate, as well as other problems with the opaque site-selection process, including allegations of bribery, were deployed. While far from perfect, they have recently awarded host cities in countries that hew closer to the Olympic ethos.
There's been a "tension between the Olympic movement and its great hopes in higher human ideals as it comes up against the size and complexity of the Olympic industry," University of Minnesota sociology Prof. Doug Hartmann told an editorial writer.
Hartmann, whose academic focus includes the Olympics, added that the Games "are just bound up with so many of the grand tensions of the global world that we live in. It's almost a miracle every time they come together."
It needn't take a miracle to have them come together in nations committed to human rights. Just the same kind of will the athletes themselves will now show in Tokyo.