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7 Dec, 2021 09:59

Russian Olympic Committee responds to US boycott of Beijing Winter Games

Russian Olympic Committee responds to US boycott of Beijing Winter Games

The Russian Olympic Committee has described Washington's diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics as "counterproductive", calling for unity between the sides after a rancorous exchange between the US and China.

The Biden administration confirmed the boycott of the showpiece on Monday, citing alleged human rights abuses alongside “crimes against humanity” targeting ethnic and religious minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

China has pledged to take retributive action, and the Chinese embassy in the US called the move "pretentious", "a political manipulation" and "a grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter."

Rodion Plitukhin, the Deputy Director General of the Russian Olympic Committee, also denounced the decision.

In its response, the committee referenced the US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in a protest against the Soviet Union, which was followed by a Soviet boycott of the 1984 Games, as examples of the move not working.

“The ROC, as a fully-fledged participant in the Olympic movement, is guided by the provisions of the Olympic Charter," said Plitukhin.

"It does not provide for such a way of interaction as a boycott. Referring to the practice of 1980 and 1984, it can be stated that a boycott is counterproductive, first of all, for sports and the Olympic movement.

"We wish all participants to find a consensus for the benefit of the development of sport."

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has said he intends to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Games by invitation of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was among the political figures in Russia to criticize a potential boycott before it was officially announced.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson also spoke in September about the "disease" of "constantly discussing boycotts".

Three-time Olympic champion Irina Rodnina, who is now a politician in the Russian State Duma, responded to the announcement by claiming that the missing US dignitaries will not be noticed.

“I know one thing,” the gold medalist in three consecutive Games from 1972 told RIA.

“Even if diplomats are present at the Olympic Games, this is only to help athletes. Their participation is not indicated in any way.

"Therefore, the International Olympic Committee, if you noticed, did not react in any way [to the boycott announcement], because this is the organization that holds the Olympic competitions.

"I do not know how this will affect the athletes of the United States. I only know that this will definitely not affect the Russian athletes.

"These [diplomats] will not come, they are not counted on. There will be a very tough [Covid] situation, which was [also seen] at the Tokyo Games.

"For athletes, the Olympic village and competition sites are isolated. All the rest will be located in hotels and sports facilities.

"So the Olympic movement will not suffer from the absence of five or eight diplomats.

“The Olympic Games involves national Olympic committees, athletes and coaches – but diplomats do not [feature].

"Do you remember what [the US] organized before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing? [There were threats of protests because of] problems with Tibet.

"Since 2008, we have heard nothing more about Tibet [from those protestors]. What does this change – the rules of the competition or the participation of athletes? How can it harm the Olympic Games?"