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USOPC says government, not athletes, should lead Beijing debate

USOPC says government, not athletes, should lead Beijing debate

FILE PHOTO: A man adjusts an emblem of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games before a ceremony unveiling the slogan, in Beijing, China September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Monday refused to be drawn into the row about China's human rights record that has sparked protests in the run-up to next year's Beijing Winter Games.

USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland, speaking at the virtual Team USA media summit, drove home a message that Olympic boycotts essentially harm athletes and do very little to impact problems in host countries.

"We strongly believe that the governments of the world, including our own, and the respective diplomatic teams and experts should lead the conversation about international relations," said Hirshland.

"We are focused on ensuring that athletes are provided a safe, fair and enjoyable environment to compete and we are confident that that's what's ahead."

Activists have urged the International Olympic Committee to take the Feb. 4-20 Olympics out of China given its treatment of Uighur Muslims along with other human rights concerns. China denies human rights abuses.

An independent U.N. panel said in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in Xinjiang.

Earlier on Monday, human rights activists unfurled a banner reading "No Genocide Games", waved a Tibetan flag and called for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics during the torch-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia.

Hirshland said Team USA athletes have been preparing for the Beijing Olympics for years and that the USOPC plan to ensure they get their chance to compete.

"The opportunity to compete for the United States is a special one and a singular event for the great majority of Olympic and Paralympic athletes," said Hirshland.

"We are focused on protecting that opportunity and continuing to advocate strongly for athletes who have earned their position on Team USA."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Source: Reuters

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