ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has criticised the planned diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing by the United States and some other countries and called for keeping politics out of sports.
“Pakistan opposes any form of politicisation of sports and hopes that all nations would come together in Beijing and afford their athletes the opportunity to compete against the best and showcase their skills,” FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar said at a weekly media briefing here on Friday.
He was commenting on reports that the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia would not send their officials to Beijing in protest against the host country’s human rights violations as well as crackdown in Hong Kong. These countries would, however, not stop their athletes from participating in the games.
The Winter Olympics are being held in Beijing and towns in the neighbouring Hebei province from February 4 to 20 next year.
China had reacted strongly to the boycott announcements. Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesman Zhao Lijian warned of “resolute counter-measures”, but did not specify what actions could be taken. He had also accused the US of violating the principle of “political neutrality in sport”.
Mr Iftikhar wished China success in hosting Beijing Olympics. “We are confident that despite limitations imposed by Covid-19, the Beijing Winter Olympics would offer a spectacular and colourful gala to sports enthusiasts around the world, including in Pakistan,” he said
Pakistan’s criticism of the boycott moves closely follows its decision about not attending the ‘Summit for Democracy’ being hosted by the US.
Many believed Pakistan decided to skip the event because China had not been invited, while Taiwan was on the guest list. This impression was further strengthened when Zhao Lijian, in a Twitter posting, hailed Pakistani decision to stay out by saying: “A real iron brother.”
Although Prime Minister Imran Khan, while speaking at the Institute of Strategic Studies on Thursday, said Pakistan would not become part of any bloc in the feared new cold war, Islamabad’s moves show it’s getting increasingly aligned with Beijing.
There have also been speculations of Pakistan breaking up with the West.
The FO spokesman rejected such an impression. “Some of the opinions and impressions that I gather from your questions, I think, are unfounded,” he maintained.
He said Pakistan was closely engaged with the US on a range of issues. “We value our partnership with the US and we wish to expand it bilaterally as well as in terms of regional and international cooperation,” he noted.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2021