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Olympic leader tries to head off boycott of 2022 Beijing Games

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach speaks during a news conference.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach believes “sporting boycotts do not have any political effect whatsoever.”
(Rick Rycroft / Associated Press)

While the Olympic spotlight has remained focused on the postponed Tokyo Games — and their chances of taking place next summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic — there might be additional trouble brewing with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The international sporting event could face stern opposition — maybe even boycotts — because of China’s human rights record.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, speaking Friday before a first-ever virtual session of his membership, pushed back against what he called “the growing misuse of sport for political purposes.”

“Boycotts and discrimination because of political background or nationality are once again a real danger,” he said in an opening speech. “It appears that today, some just do not want to learn anything from history: that such sporting boycotts do not have any political effect whatsoever.”

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The U.S. should call on the International Olympic Committee to move or cancel the Games unless China ends brutal abuses against Muslims in Xinjiang.

The issue is personal for Bach. In 1980, a boycott of the Moscow Games denied him and his German teammates a chance to defend their fencing title.

“The Soviet army stayed nine long more years in Afghanistan after the boycott,” Bach recalled. “The only political effect the boycott of 1980 had, was to trigger the revenge boycott of the following Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984.”

China has come under international pressure for its response to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority population.

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In other news Friday, Bach announced he will run for a second term as IOC president, and Tokyo organizers said they have secured all necessary venues, including the athletes village, for use next summer.

The IOC also elected five new members, including two-time Olympic champion Sebastian Coe of Britain and Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.


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