Sunday, June 20

Boycott of the Beijing Games: the United States backs off

The White House cut short conjectures on a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics next year on Wednesday, assuring that there was at this stage no consultation between the United States and its allies on this issue. .

“We have not had discussions and we are not discussing any boycott with allies and partners,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The day before, statements by the US State Department had angered China, leaving the possibility of joint action by the West.

A sign of emotion in the sports world, the American Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) reaffirmed Wednesday through the voice of its president its opposition to the boycott of the Beijing Winter Games in February 2022, demanded in particular by defense associations human rights.

“For our athletes, the only dream is to represent the United States of America,” insisted Susanne Lyons, president of the USOPC, at the opening of a meeting with the press devoted to athletes qualified for the Olympics. Tokyo summer.

“We do not believe that the young athletes who belong to the United States team should be used as pawns on the political spectrum,” she said.

“We certainly do not want to minimize what is happening in terms of human rights in China, assured the patron of American sports, but the United States has several tools to respond constructively to these questions, which we believe. , must be managed by government officials. “

The position of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee comes as no surprise, but this clarification has been expected since statements made by State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday.

“This is something we definitely want to discuss,” said Ned Price, when asked if the United States was considering a joint boycott with its allies.

“We believe that a coordinated approach would not only be in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners,” he said, without revealing the government’s position on the issue.

With less than a year before the next Winter Games, and while the Tokyo Summer Games, the culmination of the sports calendar, are scheduled from July 23 to August 11, it is indeed the rendezvous of Beijing, which is already the focus of attention.

” Negative consequences “

Several associations and Republican politicians are calling for an American boycott, a movement that concerns other countries, such as Canada and the Netherlands.

They are based in part on several studies which accuse China of persecuting Uyghur Muslims, in particular by placing them in internment camps where members of this minority are subjected, according to testimonies from survivors, to various forms of abuse.

The head of the American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, thus took again the qualification of “genocide” to evoke the treatment of Uyghurs, a qualification dear to his predecessor, Mike Pompeo.

Beijing castigated Wednesday these accusations, described as “the lie of the century”, promising that they will be the subject of a “vigorous response”.

“A so-called joint boycott of the Beijing Winter Games […] is contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Charter, ”Chinese diplomacy spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

For Susanne Lyons, a boycott can even be counterproductive. “The precedents have shown that this can have negative consequences on athletes, while not responding to international problems satisfactorily. “

It echoes the words last month of the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, for whom a boycott “never brought anything.”

The former fencing-turned-lawyer had mentioned the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 by the United States and some of its allies to protest the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.

“The Soviet army withdrew in 1989, so it was really no use other than punishing their own athletes and leading to a counter-boycott of the Los Angeles Games” in 1984 by the countries of the bloc. ballast.

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