Diplomatic boycott threatens countdown to Beijing 2022

The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have joined forces to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in response to China’s human rights abuses. This will mean that the athletes will participate as normal, but there would be no delegation of officials and politicians to accompany the delegation to the event during the opening on February 4 and also at the closing on February 20.

The hosts of Olympic Games they usually take advantage of the global attention that the event provides to receive visits from foreign leaders or officials, however, this edition will lack such figures from the previously mentioned countries.

Japan was the last country to announce, on December 24, that it will not send a delegation of ministers to represent its government in Beijing 2022, although three representatives of their Olympic committees will attend, following the invitations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The nation softened its position by not indicating that it is going to boycott and with a normal performance of its athletes.

“We don’t use a particular term to describe how we will come,” said Hirokazu Matsuno, chief cabinet secretary. Japan, an ally of the United States, but whose main trading partner is China, is in a difficult position.

Critics have argued that the host nation’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang amounts to genocide, as it is accused of using forced Uyghur labor, operating a mass surveillance program, carrying out forced sterilizations and intentionally destroying the Uyghur heritage in the region. Also, the well-being of tennis player Peng Shuai have come under scrutiny.

Response from China has been to criticize the United States and other countries for breaching the political neutrality required in the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

“The United States will pay a price for its wrongdoing,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said after the formal US announcement, noting that Beijing had lodged an official protest with Washington over the boycott.

The state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (PRK NOC) and the North Korean Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports sent a letter to the Olympic Committee Chino, the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee and the General Administration of Sport of China, in which they pledged their “full support” for the Games, despite the fact that their delegation will not participate due to “hostile forces” and the pandemic.

China is North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner globally, amid a series of international sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s nuclear program and missile tests.

In turn, the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, issued a message in the new year, in which he reiterated his position that the Olympic Games and the IOC must be “beyond all political disputes”.

“The United Nations (UN) General Assembly approved the Olympic Truce Resolution by consensus of the 193 UN member states. This Olympic Truce Resolution is another demonstration that we can only fulfill our mission of uniting the world if everyone respects that the Olympic Games must be beyond all political disputes,” he said in his message on YouTube.

Throughout history, the Olympic Games have been a platform for exposing political conflicts. In Moscow 1980, for example, the United States prevented the participation of its athletes, in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Political repression also in sport

Belarus has banned two female cross-country skiers, including one who was aiming to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, from participating in international competitions after accusing them of being supporters of the political opposition in the country.

Sviatlana Andryiuk and Darya Dolidovich told Reuters their International Ski Federation (FIS) athlete codes, which allow them to participate in major events such as Olympic qualifiers, had been revoked. They claimed that the president of the Belarusian Cross-Country Ski Federation, Aliaksandr Darakhovich, told officials in November not to let them compete in world events.

Andryiuk, who hoped to participate in Beijing 2022, told Reuters he had never disclosed his political views.

They appear to be the latest victims of a government crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko, which led to the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) being placed under provisional measures by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The NOCRB has received several sanctions from the IOC after failing to protect athletes who had protested against President Lukashenko, who led the organization until he was replaced by his son Viktor last year.

Among the athletes who have fallen victim to government repression are sprinter Kristina Timanóvskaya, stunt skier Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya, basketball player Yelena Leuchanka and decathlon specialist Andrei Krauchanka.



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