MrBeast’s Olympics video is a geopolitical nightmare

MrBeast stumbled into the heated discourse of global affairs in his latest stunt.

The billionaire creator inadvertently stoked generations of geopolitical tension in his latest YouTube video, in which participants from “every country on Earth” competed in “Squid Game”-like elimination challenges for a chance to win $250,000.

“Behind me is one person from every country on Earth,” MrBeast said in the video posted on Saturday. “We’re gonna see which country’s the best. Because I flew all of them here to compete in the most extreme version of the Olympics ever created.”

Like most of MrBeast’s content, the scale of the production was staggering. The competition involved massive obstacle courses over foam pits, an extravagant cash prize and a hefty dose of product placement. Those are pillars of MrBeast’s channel, and at this point, they aren’t novel enough to pique the attention of non-subscribers.

It was the countries that weren’t included in the competition, as well as the map featured in the video, that made the stunt ripe for discourse. After each round, the map highlighted the countries that remained in the competition. Certain borders are already sources of major global conflict, and MrBeast appeared to take some divisive stances by depicting them on the map.

X (formerly known as Twitter) users joked that the participants MrBeast flew in indicate the countries that he recognizes as sovereign.

The video included a participant from Hong Kong, for example, but not Taiwan and Tibet, which were included in China’s borders. MrBeast appears to recognize American Samoa, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico as independent states, rather than territories of the United States and the United Kingdom. Kosovo and Somaliland are also depicted as sovereign nations.

MrBeast recognizes Palestine, but only the West Bank.

The map affirms the Sahrawi Republic’s claim over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, but also draws Morocco up to the de facto border, which conflicts with both countries’ claim over the land.

MrBeast lumps Crimea in with Russia, which invaded and annexed the formerly Ukrainian peninsula in a move that was vehemently condemned by the United Nations. The map also gave Canada claim over island territories that are currently part of Greenland and Norway.

Despite speculation that MrBeast supports Korean reunification, since only one participant was chosen to represent the peninsula, the map clearly depicts the border between North and South Korea.

The flag of the American state of Georgia was used to represent the country of Georgia, which is less of a diplomatic stance and more of a comically myopic American mistake.

The map also depicted Afghanistan using the black and white flag adopted by the Taliban in 2021, instead of the tricolor flag that was used until the Fall of Kabul. The United States and many other nations do not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and still use the tricolor flag to represent the country.

Most of the depictions on the map are probably the result of limited research and sloppy editing instead of genuine stances MrBeast takes on wildly divisive international conflicts. But some viewers were deeply offended by the video’s implications.

In an X post about the video, Ukrainian influencer Igor Lachenkov called on MrBeast to amend the map to show that he does not “support terrorism and war.”

“You’ve invited a Russian onto your show to represent Russia, whereas global sports officials at least make them take part under a neutral flag,” Lachenkov wrote. “Ukrainians are in a full-scale war with Russia and have been fighting with the aggressor for their rights, freedom and lives.”

MrBeast has not publicly responded to Lachenkov, or to any of the criticism of his apparent geopolitical takes. He has a habit of inciting heated debate over power and class with his content. Given his history of getting flamed for defending his videos — from pulling sweeping philanthropic stunts that do little to change systemic issues, to completely missing the point of the socioeconomic commentary in “Squid Game” — he’d be wise to keep quiet and avoid stumbling further into the thorny discourse.

The phrase “MrBeast does not recognize Taiwan,” however, will haunt me for years.