(Reuters) – World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said he is “philosophically opposed” to boycotts and prefers dialogue as a means to work through issues after the Diamond League announced the addition of a second event in China next year.
The Diamond League said on Tuesday Shenzhen would host the 2022 season’s second meet in China on Aug. 6, after the July 30 event in Shanghai.
The United States, Britain and Australia are among countries that have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Winter Games over China’s human rights record, a stand that China dismissed as “political posturing”.
Sport in China is also under the microscope after tennis player Peng Shuai alleged that a former Chinese vice premier had sexually assaulted her in the past. The Women’s Tennis Association said it would suspend tournaments in China due to concerns over her safety.
Peng, who was absent from public view from nearly three weeks, said on Sunday that she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her.
Speaking after the decision to add another event in China, Coe said: “We are concerned for the welfare of all athletes.
“I believe all athletes should be free to voice their concerns and sports should never flinch from making those points.
“But it is still better to have open dialogue and sporting relationships than pulling up the drawbridge.”
Briton Coe won 1,500m gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when 66 countries, led by the United States, boycotted the event, and again four years later in Los Angeles when Russia, the Eastern bloc and its allies responded in kind.
“I’m philosophically opposed to sporting boycotts,” said Coe. “I experienced them and they tend not to achieve what they set out to achieve.”
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)