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US Olympic committee opposes China boycott

Kai Dambach
March 11, 2021

The Olympic and Paralympic Committee said that previous boycotts were not effective. The US had called China's treatment of Uighur Muslims genocide.

2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremonies
The US has not boycotted an Olympic Games since 1980Image: Reuters/C. Hartmann

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said Wednesday that it would not boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

USOPC president Susanne Lyons said during a press conference that while there was "a steady drumbeat" of support of a boycott, it would hurt athletes who had been training for competition.

"While we would never want to minimize what is happening from a human rights perspective in China, we do not support an athlete boycott," said Lyons, referencing the internment of Uighur Muslims, which the US has said amounted to genocide.

The US has only boycotted one modern Olympics: the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, Soviet Union, for their involvement in armed conflict in Afghanistan during the Cold War.

"We believe such boycotts have not been effective in the past, particularly in 1980," said Lyons. "Those boycotts only hurt athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity to represent their country."

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin February 4 next year, just six months after the delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics.

China under pressure

China has come under pressure due to the treatment of Uighur Muslims, its stance towards Taiwan, and a clampdown on Hong Kong.

Congressman John Katko wrote to US President Joe Biden last month in support of a boycott.

"Participation in an Olympics held in a country that is openly committing genocide not only undermines those shared values but casts a shadow on the promise for all those who seek free and just societies," read part of the letter.

Silencing Uyghur intellectuals

A coalition of 180 rights groups also called for a 2022 Winter Olympics boycott. China's foreign ministry has previously dismissed concerns, calling them "politically motivated."

Pro-Tibet demonstrators outside the presentation of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics bid
Several rights groups, including Tibet supporters, have opposed China hosting the OlympicsImage: F. Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

AFP contributed to this report.