Australia confirms diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022

The decision was confirmed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison a day after the United States announced its own diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Flag bearers Cate Campbell of Australia and Patty Mills of Australia lead their contingent during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Flag bearers Cate Campbell of Australia and Patty Mills of Australia lead their contingent during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Government officials from the land “down under” will not be traveling to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The decision was confirmed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison a day after the United States announced its own diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Among the reasons given by Morrison for the diplomatic boycott was “the human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia has consistently raised.”

He stated, “we have been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues and there’s been no obstacle to that occurring on our side.”

“But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues.”

He concluded, “so it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those games. Australian athletes will though.”

A statement released by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) read, “the AOC respects the fact that diplomatic options are a matter for government and that politics and sport should be separated.”

AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll maintained that the announcement would not impact preparations underway by Australian athletes. He stated, “We are heartened by the Prime Minister’s support for our Team and we thank the government for its assistance with arrangements to ensure our athletes can travel to Beijing and represent their country with pride.”

Snowboarding – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Men's Snowboard Cross Finals – Phoenix Snow Park – Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 15, 2018 - Silver medallist Jarryd Hughes of Australia celebrates with the Australian flag. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Snowboarding – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Men's Snowboard Cross Finals – Phoenix Snow Park – Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 15, 2018 - Silver medallist Jarryd Hughes of Australia celebrates with the Australian flag. REUTERS/Issei Kato

“The AOC is very focused on ensuring that Team members are able to safely travel to China given the complexity of the COVID environment with our athletes departing from overseas locations.

“Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge.

“Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed.

“Human rights are extremely important, but the considered view of diplomats is that keeping channels of communication open is far more impactful than shutting them down.”

Australia is the second anglophone country to confirm plans for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics after the United States.

Speaking on the United States’s decision, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “the Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given China’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, stated that the boycott, “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united.’”

He added, “the U.S. will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups.”

Reacting to the United States’ decision to engage in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated, “the presence of government officials and diplomats is a purely political decision for each government, which the IOC in its political neutrality fully respects.”

“At the same time, this announcement also makes it clear the Olympic Games and the participation of the athletes are beyond politics and we welcome this.”

Whether or not the 2022 Winter Olympics will remain “beyond politics” remains unclear, but it does seem likely that additional nations, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, will announce decisions on a potential diplomatic boycott in the near future.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin on February 4 and last until February 20, 2022.