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US State Department Considering Joint Boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2021

Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

The United States is considering joining with allies to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

"It [a joint boycott] is something that we certainly wish to discuss," said Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. "A coordinated approach will not only be in our interest but also in the interest of our allies and partners."

The 2022 Games are scheduled to open Feb. 4 and conclude Feb. 20.

Shortly before he was due to leave office, the administration for former President Donald Trump accused China of committing "genocide and crimes against humanity" against Uighur Muslims in the country's Xinjiang region.

That led many to wonder whether the U.S. would consider an Olympic boycott given the human rights abuses.

"There hasn’t been a final decision made on that and, of course, we would look for guidance from the U.S. Olympic Committee," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in February.

In a March op-ed for the New York Times, Sen. Mitt Romney called for "an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics" that would include American fans not traveling to the event.

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Romney also argued NBC, which is the U.S. media partner for the Olympics, could "refrain from showing any jingoistic elements of the opening and closing ceremonies and instead broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses."

Susanne Lyons, the chairwoman of the board for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in March the organization "would never want to minimize what is happening from a human rights perspective in China" but didn't support the idea of a boycott. Lyons questioned the utility of the action in terms of resolving the issue at hand.

The United States helped organize a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Soviet–Afghan War. Speaking with CBC News' Daniel Schwartz in August 2013, historian David Wallechinsky argued the tactic didn't work because the Soviet government was unmoved and turned the situation against the U.S. in the Soviet Union.

Decades later, athletes who were unable to compete in the 1980s expressed a level of frustration at having worked for years and then losing their chance to star on a world stage.

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