The White House cut short, on Wednesday, to speculation about a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics (OG) next year, assuring that there was at this stage no consultation between the United States and their allies on this issue.
“We have not had discussions and we are not discussing any boycott with allies and partners,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The day before, statements by the US State Department had angered China, leaving the possibility of joint action by the West.
Refusal to use athletes “as pawns on the political spectrum”
Sign of emotion in the sporting world, the American Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) reaffirmed Wednesday through the voice of its president its opposition to the boycott of the Beijing Winter Games in February 2022, demanded in particular by defense associations of human rights.
“For our athletes, the only dream is to represent the United States of America,” insisted Susanne Lyons, the president of the USOPC at the opening of a meeting with the press devoted to athletes qualified for the Olympic Games. summer of Tokyo. “We do not believe that the young athletes who belong to the United States team should be used as pawns on the political spectrum.”
“We certainly do not want to minimize what is happening in terms of human rights in China,” assured the patron of American sports, “but the United States has several tools to respond constructively to these questions which, we believe. , must be managed by government officials ”.
The position of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee comes as no surprise, but this clarification has been expected since statements made by State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday.
“This is something we certainly want to discuss,” said Ned Price, when asked whether the United States was considering a joint boycott with its allies. “We believe that a coordinated approach would not only be in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners,” he said, without revealing the administration’s position on the issue. .
Our interview with former diplomat Kishore Mahbubani:
With less than a year before the next Winter Games, and while the Tokyo Summer Games, the culmination of the sports calendar, are scheduled from July 23 to August 11, it is indeed the rendezvous of Beijing, which is already the focus of attention.
Several associations and Republican politicians are calling for an American boycott, a movement that concerns other countries such as Canada or the Netherlands. They are based in part on several studies which accuse China of persecuting Uyghur Muslims, in particular by placing them in internment camps where members of this minority are subjected, according to testimony from survivors, to various forms of abuse. The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, thus used the qualification of “genocide” to evoke the treatment of Uyghurs, dear to his predecessor Mike Pompeo.
Beijing castigated Wednesday these accusations, described as “the lie of the century”, promising that they would be the subject of a “vigorous response”. “A so-called joint boycott of the Beijing Winter Games (…) is contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” Chinese diplomacy spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.
For Susanne Lyons, a boycott can be counterproductive: “The precedents have proven to have negative consequences on athletes, while not responding to international problems in a satisfactory manner.” It echoes the words last month of the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach for whom a boycott “never brought anything.”
The former fencer turned lawyer had mentioned the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 by the United States and some of its allies, to protest against the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. “The Soviet army withdrew in 1989, so it was really no use other than punishing their own athletes and leading to a counter-boycott of the Los Angeles Games”, in 1984, by the countries of the bloc. ballast.