US Olympic Committee urges Congress not to boycott Games in China

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee is urging Congress to not boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s treatment of the country’s Uyghur Muslim population.

Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. committee, wrote in a letter to members of Congress obtained by Politico that the committee is also “troubled by the situation in China,” adding that it “does not condone actions that undermine the core values of the Olympic movement—values that include diversity, peace, and respect for human dignity.”

However, Hirshland argued in Wednesday’s letter that “an athlete boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is not the solution to geopolitical issues.”

Some Republican lawmakers have vocalized support for boycotting the Games after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the final days of the Trump administration declared that China was carrying out a genocide against Uyghurs. 

The Biden administration has launched sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials and other government entities for the persecution of religious minorities and human rights violations in Xinjiang province, home to the Uyghur population, where there have been reports of forced sterilization, arbitrary detention and reports of torture and rape.

However, Hirshland in her letter argued that Olympic boycotts “do not have an encouraging history,” citing the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow, when the U.S. government pushed for an athlete boycott over the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan. 

“As a result, 461 American athletes—the balance of them teenagers and college students representing almost every U.S. state—qualified to compete in Moscow only to have the opportunity taken from them,” the CEO wrote. “Many never had the chance to compete at the Olympic Games again.”

Hirshland then cited a recent Morning Consult poll that showed that roughly two-thirds of Americans opposed a boycott of the Beijing Games, and added that “the Olympic and Paralympic Games can help to raise awareness of critical human rights issues.” 

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games are a chance for the United States to showcase the values that make our country strong and respected: Our belief in fair competition; our commitment to the dignity of all people; and our support of the hard work and lifelong commitment of athletes from every state in the nation,” she wrote. 

Hirshland went on to say “a new generation of Winter Olympians and Paralympians are hard at work preparing to represent America in Beijing in 2022. Please give them that chance. They do not deserve to train for the Games under a cloud of uncertainty about American participation in the Games. Instead, we ought to show them our support and our appreciation—at a time of great difficulty, they have trained hard and sacrificed much.”

Late last month, GOP Sen. Todd Young (Ind.) said that he supported a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics to signal that U.S. leaders “highly disapprove, we abhor and condemn the slavery conditions in which they require Uyghur Muslims to work; we condemn the executions and forced abortions that they are involved in; we condemn the snatching of territory and occupation of disputed lands on and on and on.” 

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) was the first to suggest the idea of an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Games in March, though the White House and State Department have both said officials are not considering such a move.

Tags Beijing Beijing Games 2022 Biden adminitration China Congress Genocide Mike Pompeo Mitt Romney Todd Young US Olympic Committee Uyghur Uyghur Muslims Xinjiang
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