Report: US Weighing Boycott of 2022 Winter Olympics in China

A State Department spokesman said a boycott is “something that we certainly wish to discuss”

The Olympic rings
A view of the Olympic rings.
Tim De Waele/Getty

Lingering tension between the United States and China is entering the world of sports and could lead to the U.S. boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Though the U.S. State Department is sending mixed messages about what the Biden administration is considering with regard to the 2022 Games, department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that a boycott is “something that we certainly wish to discuss.”

“These Games remain some time away. I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it, but these discussions are underway,” he said. “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss and it is certainly something that we understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners. So this is one of the issues that is on the agenda, both now and going forward.”

Though it is not immediately clear which countries would be involved, a potential boycott of the Winter Games could be carried out in concert with U.S. allies. It is also not clear if a boycott of the Games would involve U.S. athletes or if it would simply be carried out along economic lines.

Also, since the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is a private entity that does not receive direct funding from the government, it is unclear if Team USA could be forced to boycott the Games no matter what the feds decide to do.

The root cause of the potential boycott would be human rights abuses by China, which recently led the Biden administration to sanction two Chinese officials over the government’s treatment of the Uyghur population.

“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

In the past, the International Olympic Committee has spoken out against boycotts. “It has no logic,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in March. “Why would you punish the athletes from your own country if you have a dispute with a government from another country? This just makes no real sense.”

China has denied all charges of human rights abuses and says “political motives” underlie the boycott effort. The Beijing Winter Olympics are set to open on February 4, 2022. China hosted the Summer Games in 2008.

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