Sebastian Coe calls political boycott of Winter Olympics ‘meaningless’ | 2022 Winter Olympics

Sebastian Coe has doubled his insistence that boycotting the Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human rights record and treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai would be a mistake, saying dialogue and relationships are a better way to “whip the dial” politically and socially.

In his strongest intervention to date, the head of World Athletics and senior IOC member said the sports boycott was “historically illiterate and intellectually dishonest” and described the political boycott announced by the US, UK and other Western countries as “quite frankly meaningless”. “.

Human rights groups have accused China of forcibly detaining more than a million Uighurs in Xinjiang Rehabilitation Camps, subjecting them to forced sterilizations and deliberately destroying their culture as well as destroying democracy in Hong Kong.

That view is supported by the Biden administration, which confirmed earlier this month that it would not send diplomats to the Winter Games because of “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights violations.”

However, Coe insisted that a “balance” be struck when it comes to human rights and countries like China. He rejected claims that such an attitude ignored the situation facing the Uighurs and others.

“I’m not unaware of human rights, I take them very seriously,” he said. “But we have to be realistic. When we take our events around the world, there will be challenges: culturally, politically, socially. I guess my mistaken position on this is always that in an imperfect world, sport is the only continuum. “that can actually create some stability. I have repeatedly witnessed the impact that sport has had by hitting the dial, socially, politically, economically.”

When asked about the boycott, Coe, who chaired the Organizing Committee of the 2012 London Olympics, was blank. “All in all, boycotts are historically illiterate and intellectually dishonest,” he said. “A political boycott is frankly meaningless. And in a world where I actually think discussion and relationships are important, I rarely see isolation bear fruit.

“But that is not to apologize for countries that do not comply with the basic standards of human rights. I have never witnessed sport leaving any country in worse shape than when it has been there. The impact across the board can be many occasions be quite deep. “

Sebastian Coe at a press conference earlier this year
Sebastian Coe says he takes human rights ‘very seriously’. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama / AP

Last month, the WTA suspended tennis tournaments in China due to concerns over Peng’s safety, but Coe defended World Athletics’ plans to double the number of Diamond League events in China to two next summer.

“It’s up to each sport to decide its own approach,” Coe said. “It’s not an approach we would take in World Athletics, and I do not think in the long run it is one that actually achieves a great deal. There are always unintended consequences. And at the end of the day, they people who suffer the most in all are the athletes.

“All athletes should be free to express their concerns and they should be free to do so without fear of censorship and they should be able to travel freely,” he said. “It is an important right. But we are talking about extrapolating from that to boycotting a sporting event, and I think there should be proportionality here, and I think there should be balance. ”

Meanwhile, Coe confirmed that the Athletics Integrity Unit would step up its protective efforts in the sport. It comes after The Guardian revealed that top sprint coach Rana Reider is being investigated by the US Center for Safesport after several complaints of sexual misconduct against him.

UK Sport is also investigating whether UK Athletics handled a claim about Reider and an 18-year-old sprinter correctly when it was made in 2014. Although Coe would not comment specifically on that case, he accepted that athletics needed to do more for to make the sport safe.

“I do not know what is going on in the UKA,” he said. “I’m sure they want them to look at what happened themselves and they’ll have to go back through that particular pathology. But one of the things that came out of our Congress was to extend the AIU’s mandate.It can look more broadly at some of these security issues.

“It may not be the world policeman on this, but I think it will take a much greater interest in that kind of question. During the rally, we got Charlie Webster to tell his story, and I can tell you that within hours, both World Athletics and AIU were contacted by federations, who said they could no longer sit and watch certain people, who just got jobs in system know what they knew. It was as if their conscience was stung over this.

“If we are all honest about it, there are red flags that are sometimes ignored and all too often a problem is swept away from one union and unknowingly ends up in another union. It is really important that we are able to share that kind of information in federations, no matter where they occur, because there are too many of them. ”

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