'Need to respect': Aussie athletes' China warning for Winter Olympics

·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Australian athletes, pictured here at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Australian athletes have been urged to respect China at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Image: Getty

Australian athletes have been warned to respect "the way China operates" amid controversy surrounding the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Beijing will become the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games in 2022, but next year's event is shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and calls to boycott over human rights issues.

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A number of human rights groups and some United States lawmakers have called for a boycott or shift of host over China's treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.

During the torch-lighting ceremony in Athens earlier this month, rights activists protested, although the ceremony itself was not interrupted.

While no country has said its athletes will boycott the Games, European, British and American lawmakers have all voted for their diplomats to do so.

Beijing marked 100 days until the Winter Olympics kicks off on Wednesday, with Australian Chef de Mission Geoff Lipshut speaking out about the controversy.

Lipshut said there would be no limiting the freedom of speech of Australian athletes, however he urged them to be respectful.

"The athletes absolutely have their own voice and they will be free to express their own views," Lipshut told reporters on Wednesday.

"About the difficult issues, about the human rights issues, they are significant issues and they are important issues.

"But our Olympic team is focused on the performance, providing the best athletes that we have to have the best opportunity in China.

"We also respect that we are in another country, and the way that country operates, we need to respect that.

"What we are focused on is to do sport and athletes will have the best opportunity to actually do their sport when it counts."

Geoff Lipshut, pictured here addressing the media in Melbourne.
Geoff Lipshut addresses the media in Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Controversy surrounding Winter Olympics in Beijing

A vocal core of international lawyers, politicians and activists have brought pressure on Olympic sponsors, sports federations, governments and athletes to shun what they are branding as the “Genocide Games”.

Those calls have largely been met with silence, although Canada’s House of Commons voted 266-0 in a non-binding referendum that China is committing genocide against more than one million Uyghurs and called for the IOC to move the Olympics from Beijing.

The Dutch parliament passed a similar motion, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he believes genocide is being committed against the Uyghurs.

Earlier this year the state-run tabloid Global Times said countries who boycott the 2022 Games can expect serious sanctions.

A man, pictured here taking a selfie next to a countdown screen showing 100 days before the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
A man takes a selfie next to a countdown screen showing 100 days before the opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

“IOC and athletes will both oppose it, and China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call,” Hu Xijin tweeted.

An editorial published in the Global Times also described the boycott calls as a “hostage” situation.

“China is a sporting and economic power with growing political influence," the editorial read.

"If any country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete actions to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely.

“China certainly has the resources and means to do that.”

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