LOS ANGELES: The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) reiterated its opposition to a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday, saying athletes should not be used as “political pawns.”

In remarks to reporters ahead of a US Olympic team media event, USOPC president Susanne Lyons repeated the organisation’s stance that boycotts were ineffective.

“We at the USOPC oppose athlete boycotts because they’ve been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” Lyons said.

“For our athletes, their only dream is to represent the USA and what we stand for on the international field of play.

“We do not believe that Team USA’s young athletes should be used as political pawns.”

The Beijing Winter Games are scheduled to begin on Feb 4 next year, just six months after the summer Tokyo Olympics.

China is facing global scrutiny over a range of issues, notably the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, which the US has said amounts to genocide.

It is also under pressure for its rights clampdown in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked if the US would consider a joint boycott with allies and said it was “something that we certainly wish to discuss.”

But he later stressed that the United States does not “have any announcement regarding the Beijing Olympics,” writing on Twitter that “we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach.”

China, which has rejected criticism of its human rights record, on Wednesday hit back at suggestions of a boycott, accusing the US of “politicising sports”.

USOPC chief president Lyons acknowledged the human rights issues in China, but said the issue was best dealt with on a government level.

“We certainly do not want to minimise the serious human rights issues that are happening in China,” Lyons said.

“But the US has many tools to constructively respond to these concerns which we believe should be handled by government officials.”

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2021

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