USOPC opposes 'ineffective' 2022 Games boycott: Lyons

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This photo taken on February 24, 2021 shows people visiting a lantern show on the theme of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games at the citizen square in Zhangjiakou, in northern Hebei province.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) reiterated its opposition to a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday following calls for US athletes to skip the event over China's human rights record.

USOPC president Susanne Lyons said boycotts were ineffective and unfairly penalised athletes who had been preparing for the Games.

"While we would never want to minimise what is happening from a human rights perspective in China, we do not support an athlete boycott," Lyons said, citing the case of the US boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

"We believe such boycotts have not been effective in the past, particularly in 1980," Lyons said. "Those boycotts only hurt athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity to represent their country.

"We believe this is an issue that should be addressed at a government to government level with China."

The Games are scheduled to begin on February 4 next year, just six months after the delayed summer Tokyo Olympics.

China is facing global scrutiny over a range of issues, notably the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, which the US has said amounts to genocide.

It is also under pressure for its rights clampdown in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

On Friday, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo joined lawmakers who have urged President Joe Biden to order a boycott of the Games, saying China's "nasty" activity made it an inappropriate host.

Last month a group of US senators introduced a resolution seeking to remove the Games from China, urging the International Olympic Committee to allow new bids for the Games.

Lyons said the USOPC was in dialogue with officials in Congress as well as the White House, emphasising that the 1980 Moscow boycott had not worked.

"We need to understand what the impact was in 1980 when we boycotted," she said. "What was meant to be accomplished by that boycott was not accomplished. In fact all that happened was that the hopes and dreams of a large number of athletes never came to fruition.

"We believe these geopolitical issues and concerns are really best handled on a government to government basis.

"That's what we're encouraging and speaking with members of Congress about."