LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) -The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday it welcomed governments’ support for their national Olympic teams for the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics despite some countries announcing a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights record.
The United States, Australia and Britain have said they will send no government officials to the Games to protest over China’s human rights “atrocities” while other allies consider similar moves.
China said the United States would “pay a price” for its decision and warned of countermeasures in response, but gave no details.
“The IOC has always been concerned with the participation of the athletes in the Olympic Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach told a video news conference. “We welcome the support for their Olympic teams all these governments have been emphasising.
“This is giving the athletes certainty and this is what the IOC is about.”
The decision may not impact Games operations as such but it is a blow to the IOC and its prime product — the Olympics — less than two months before their start, especially after the delayed Tokyo summer Games were held in July without spectators due to COVID-19.
The diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by members of the U.S. Congress and rights groups, comes despite efforts to stabilise the two nations’ ties, including a video meeting last month between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping.
“We welcome that they (athletes) will be there, we welcome that they are supported by their national governments. The rest is politics,” Bach said.
“The presence of government officials is a purely political decision for each government.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann;Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond)