IOC says it ‘respects’ US boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Die Internasionale Olimpiese Komitee (IOC) has said that it respects the United States’ decision to diplomatically boycott the forthcoming Beijing Olimpiese Winterspele, while defending its “quiet diplomacy” in handling the case of Chinese tennis player, Peng Shuai.

“We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference from the political world,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, the IOC’s coordination commission chief for the Beijing Winter Olympics. “We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.”

The Biden administration on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games in response to what it called “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses”. American athletes, egter, are still expected to compete.

China accused the US of “political posturing and manipulation” and tried to discredit the decision by claiming that American diplomats had not even been invited to Beijing in the first place. “The US should stop politicising sports, and stop disrupting and undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, lest it should affect bilateral dialogue and cooperation in important areas and international and regional issues,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned.

The move sparked a new round of disputes between the world’s two largest economies and prompted Beijing to warn on Tuesday that Washington will “pay a price” for its decision.

The US last staged a full boycott of the Olympics during the cold war in 1980, when the former president Jimmy Carter snubbed the Moscow summer games along with 64 other countries and territories, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous year.

The Soviet Union, in turn, protested against the US’s move by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles summer Olympics with its allies.

The IOC’s response to the US’s decision came 55 days before the Winter Olympics take place in February in Beijing. Vroeër, the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, said that his organisation cannot be expected to solve problems that politicians themselves have failed to clear up.

“Expecting that Olympic Games can fundamentally change a country, its political system or its laws, is a completely exaggerated expectation,” said Bach, a German national. “The Olympics cannot solve problems that generations of politicians have not solved.”

The growing calls to boycott the Winter Olympics come at a time when China’s relationship with many western capitals continues to deteriorate over Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur population, en, more recently, one of its highest-profile tennis stars, Peng Shuai.

The IOC in the past few weeks held two calls with the Chinese athlete, whose November essay on China’s social media platform Weibo sparked a huge debate outside the country. In the now-censored lengthy post, she accused a retired senior official of having coerced her into sex.

The IOC’s approach, which it dubbed as “quiet diplomacy” or “silent diplomacy”, has been criticised by human rights organisations. They alleged that the organisation was engaged in a “publicity stunt” for Beijing.

“I hugely disagree,”Gesê Samaranch in response to a journalist’s question about his organisation’s handling of the Peng incident on Tuesday. “Everybody should be concentrating on the wellbeing of Peng Shuai and not trying to use this for any other purposes.”

Hy het bygevoeg: “We did that silent diplomacy in Afghanistan, and it paid off beautifully for many many people … Don’t write off the silent diplomacy. It’s a very powerful tool.”

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