LONDON (Reuters) – Athletes have legitimate concerns about the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and organisers need to be transparent in addressing them, says the Centre for Sport and Human Rights chief executive Mary Harvey.
Human rights groups have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take the Games out of China because of the treatment of Uighur Muslims, along with other human rights concerns.
China denies human rights abuses.
“I’d like information and transparency of the situation,” Harvey said when asked whether she was comfortable with the Games taking place in the country.
“I think right now in the absence of information it’s difficult to say. I think sunlight is the best antiseptic.”
Goalkeeper for the U.S. soccer team that won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Harvey said sport was more aware of human rights than ever and athletes and fans were asking more questions.
“They do care about where products were made that they might be purchasing, they care about whether or not they are going to be in some cases safe or able to speak freely. They are legitimate concerns,” she added.
U.S. Olympic champion skier Mikaela Shiffrin said in March she should not have to choose between her “morals” and her “job”
“It’s building, it’s increasing in volume. People have concerns,” said Harvey of criticism of the Games and calls for a boycott.
“People who are advocating are becoming louder in their advocacy. And they are asking for some information. They would like more information to disprove what they are fearful of.
“In the absence of that, it probably will get worse before the Games… it could be they come off without a hitch, it could be that you are going to have athletes saying things or protesting. That’s possible too. It’s their right to do so.”
As a former athlete, she questioned whether boycotts worked and said it was never good “when somebody takes the right to compete away”.
Harvey said the IOC, which awarded the Games, could play an essential role in upholding basic human rights.
“If they choose not to take a position it’s not because they are unable to,” she said. “I think it’s a choice they are making opposed to something they are fundamentally unable to do.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)