Published: 07th December 2021
What the FAQ: What does the USA's boycott of Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing mean for the world?
China has 0 cases of Omicron and a total of 1,107 active COVID cases. Last week, Chinese officials said that Omicron would "certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control"
In the early hours of December 7, 2021, the already bitter US-China relationship went further down the hole as the US decided to stage a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, scheduled to be held in February. We take you through what this means for the two countries and some of the key developments and context circling around the move.
Will athletes from the USA still be able to take part?
The United States has said that the athletes have the government's "full support" and that they are allowed to participate in the Olympics. The Biden administration's press secretary Jen Psaki said, "The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said.
Is this the first time the US has staged a boycott against a global sporting event?
A full boycott of the Olympics came about in 1980 during the Cold War — it was after the Soviets took over Afghanistan the year earlier. Former president Jimmy Carter snubbed the Moscow Summer Games along with 64 other countries and territories. The Soviet Union, in turn, protested against the US’s move by boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics with its allies.
Why has the USA said that they are boycotting the Winter Olympics 2022 in China?
The US diplomatic boycott is a sign of escalating tensions between China and many western countries. It was first raised by Joe Biden last month as pressures grew in the US Congress over its concerns about China’s human rights record, over the treatment of Muslim minorities. The calls for the boycott grew strong after concerns arose over the treatment of the Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai. The 35-year-old former doubles world No 1 last month accused a former senior Chinese politician of sexual harassment. Multiple countries have since called on China’s authorities to ensure Peng’s wellbeing, and the Women’s Tennis Association last week announced the suspension of future games in China.
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What is China's stance on the issue?
China’s Washington embassy dismissed the boycott announcement as “a pretentious act”. According to The Guardian, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, accused Washington of “hyping a ‘diplomatic boycott’ without even being invited to the Games”. "No one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 to be successfully held," said spokesman Liu Pengyu, quoted by Reuters.
What about Omicron, the COVID 'variant of concern'?
As of now, China has 0 cases of Omicron and a total of 1,107 active COVID cases. At a press briefing last week, Zhao, acknowledged that the Omicron variant would "certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control" ahead of the Beijing Olympics. But he also indicated that China's plans for the Games have not changed. "I’m fully confident that the Winter Olympics will be held as scheduled, smoothly and successfully," Zhao said.