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The Canadian Olympic Committee reiterates that it will not boycott the Beijing Games

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Calls for boycotts miss historical lessons, ignoring the potential of sport as an ointment, officials say

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Dan Barnes | • • Postmedia “

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February 04, 2021 • • February 4, 2021 • • 3 minutes read • • 90 comments A sign at the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in Beijing on February 4, 2021. Photo by Tingshu Wang /.REUTERS

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It’s been four decades since Canada staged a boycott of the Olympics, and in a year it won’t happen again.

In light of widespread calls from human rights groups to boycott Beijing in 2022, officials from the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committee felt it was necessary to publicly reiterate their intention to fully participate in the Games. The two organizations co-authored an opinion piece that was published in Globe and Mail on Thursday, a year after the opening ceremony in Beijing.

“China’s troubling human rights record, the repression of Uighur Muslims and the continued detention of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, are deeply worrying to us,” the piece reads. “We, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, are not trying in any way to minimize what is happening in China. But boycott is not the answer. “

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It goes on to say that the G20 group of countries, including Canada, supports participation in Beijing and that there are diplomatic channels – an ambassador, embassy and consulates – through which the Canadian government may make progress with China and other countries can be divisive questions.

“However, critics are urging us to prevent Canadian athletes from participating as this is the first task that will reshape our relationship with China,” the article reads. “We believe this is little more than a convenient and politically inexpensive alternative to real and meaningful diplomacy. Boycotts don’t work. They only punish those athletes who have been prevented from competing against and those who would have been inspired by them. “

The example is given of the United States-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, a measure taken to object to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The Games took place without the US, Canada, and other Western nations, but the Soviets were still in Afghanistan for a decade. One boycott created another when the Eastern Bloc nations skipped the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

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“I would like to think that at all levels, for this moment for both the Olympic and Paralympic years, for all of the reasons mentioned, be present, emerge, really increase the power of sport and use it to transcend geopolitical issues that we would be fully represented, ”said Karen O’Neill, CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, in an interview with Postmedia on Wednesday.

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“These games are incredibly powerful,” added David Shoemaker, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “They will serve to unite, they will serve to inspire, and they will especially do so at a time during this pandemic when we could use that inspiration. We could use another golden gate, we could use another Joannie Rochette moment on the ice or Alex Bilodeau on the snow.

“We just thought it was important when we heard some boycott-related tweets to have a stake in the ground and let Canadians know that we want to see Team Canada in Beijing in 2022.”

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A total of 400 Canadian athletes are expected to take part in the two games. Should any of them decide to comment on China’s human rights record or any other potentially sensitive issue, Shoemaker says they are apparently free to do so.

“It is fundamental to the (International Olympic Committee) charter, and certainly fundamental to our view of Team Canada, that Canadian athletes have the right to freedom of expression. Point. And, under Rule 50, it includes certain areas related to the Olympic Games, especially the mixed zone.

“Before we go to a game, however, we spend some time making it clear to athletes about local laws, local customs in the host country and the things they shouldn’t do, and possibly the topics they should be careful about do what they say because it could drive them into angry public reactions.

“So we’re going to do the same thing as we did with Beijing, but they have full rights to express themselves freely in the mixed zone, for example. Rule 50, of course, states that the Olympic podium must still be a neutral space. “

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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