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Wednesday, November 17, 2021
U.S. may "Diplomatically Boycott" Winter Olympic Games
Chan Kung

The Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics by the end of the month, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin said after Joe Biden's first meeting with Xi Jinping, citing sources familiar with the matter. The U.S. will inform its allies of the decision, and will let them decide whether to follow suit.

With the Beijing Winter Olympics just three months away, human rights groups are calling for an international boycott. Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to personally invite U.S. President Joe Biden to the Winter Olympics in a video meeting, CNBC said earlier, citing people familiar with the matter. However, senior U.S. officials revealed that the Winter Olympics was not mentioned at all during the 3.5-hour meeting.

Josh Rogin, a columnist covering foreign policy and national security at The Washington Post, said that the White House is expected to announce that neither Biden nor any other U.S. government officials will attend the Beijing Games. Although the administration technically has not finalized this decision, a formal recommendation has been made to Biden and he is expected to approve it before the end of the month.

Biden administration officials have been virtually silent on Olympics-related issues in recent months, refusing to speculate on whether Biden would support a full athlete boycott (as human rights groups and activists are calling for), or a more limited boycott, or no boycott at all. Now that the Biden-Xi virtual summit is complete, sources said, the Biden administration has one less reason to hold off on announcing the diplomatic boycott.

In April, State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the administration's position on a boycott of the Beijing Games that the U.S. will evaluate this issue in close consultation with its allies, and that a boycott is indeed an option. However, Rogin said the Biden administration would inform its allies of the relevant decision, and will let them decide whether to follow suit. Neither the White House nor the State Department would comment.

There is a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. Congress to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, but lawmakers are divided on how to do so.

Since an overall boycott would inevitably affect the rights of American athletes, most lawmakers have advocated a diplomatic boycott or postponing and moving the Games to another country. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Chris Smith went a step further and asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to prohibit the Chinese team from participating on the grounds of Beijing's alleged genocide in Xinjiang.

The United States last boycotted the Games in 1980. The then U.S. President Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, along with 60 countries including Canada, South Korea, and Israel, because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in the previous year.