Utah's Olympic bidders say US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games won't affect trip to China

From left, Glenn de Blois of the Netherlands, Nick Baumgartner of the U.S., and Jakob Dusek of Austria compete during the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup in Zhangjiakou, China on Sunday, Nov. 28. The U.S. has announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Games in
China.

From left, Glenn de Blois of the Netherlands, Nick Baumgartner of the U.S., and Jakob Dusek of Austria compete during the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup in Zhangjiakou, China on Sunday, Nov. 28. The U.S. has announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Games in China. (Mark Schiefelbein, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of Utah's bid for another Olympics said the now-official United States diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing did not come up during their hourslong virtual meeting Monday with the International Olympic Committee.

Nor will the boycott, announced Monday by the White House, affect plans by the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games to send a three-person delegation to China to attend the Olympics next February.

"It was not discussed," said the committee's president and CEO, Fraser Bullock, even though IOC President Thomas Bach, who has opposed any Beijing boycott, participated in about half of the 2½ hour-long meeting.

Bullock, the chief operating officer of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said the committee's "focus is not on any diplomatic boycott or any of those political dynamics." He said he and others are going to Beijing to see what's happening behind the scenes.

"Our focus is strictly on our Games. We've got our heads down. We're working very hard on that and we know that things in the world come and go. We recognize this is a long journey," he said.

Just how long remains unknown. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which selected Salt Lake City over Denver three years ago to bid for a future Winter Games, has yet to decide whether that's for 2030 or 2034.

There are at least four other cities and countries talking with the IOC about 2030 — Vancouver, Canada; Sapporo, Japan; Barcelona and the Pyrenees mountain region; and Ukraine.

Utah bidders had hoped to travel to the IOC's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, for Monday's meeting but it was moved to a virtual session due to concerns about surging COVID-19 cases.

On the same day as the virtual meeting, which included Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, President Joe Biden announced as expected a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing to protest China's human rights record.

"The athletes on Team USA have our full support, we'll be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. "We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games."

The boycott does not include athletes, meaning Team USA will still compete in Beijing, unlike in 1980. Then, the United States and dozens of other countries did not participate in the Moscow Summer Games to protest the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who led the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, has called for a diplomatic and even an economic boycott, along with other members of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Romney tweeted Monday, "The Administration is right to refuse diplomatic presence at the Beijing Olympics: America will not turn a blind eye to China's predation, persecution, and genocide."

China responded to earlier news that the announcement was coming by warning "resolute countermeasures" would be taken against the Biden administration if U.S. officials boycott the Winter Games set to start in February, CNN reported.

"The U.S. should stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called 'diplomatic boycott' so as not to affect China-U.S. dialogue and cooperation in important areas," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a news conference Monday.

Zhao said a boycott would be a "sensationalist and politically manipulative" move by U.S. politicians.

Romney said in a New York Times op-ed last March that China, also host of the 2008 Summer Games, "does not deserve an Olympic showcase" citing what he called genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.

The Utah Republican senator said that while the IOC hopes "awarding Games to repressive regimes would tend to lessen their abuses," they've "more often been a tool of propaganda" in authoritarian states like Hitler's Germany, Vladimir Putin's Russia and Xi Jinping's China.

Pressure on the Biden administration to boycott Beijing has only increased since then, most recently because of the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai after she made sexual assault allegations against a former senior official of the Chinese Communist Party.

She reappeared after three weeks, including in calls with IOC leaders, but questions remain.

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Lisa Riley Roche

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