An athlete boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over China’s human rights abuses would not achieve anything, the president of the International Olympic Committee has said.
China has been criticised by human rights groups and activists, in particular its treatment of the Uighur Muslim population.
There have been calls for the IOC to use its global position to speak out against the abuse, and for athletes to boycott the Games.
However, IOC chief Thomas Bach says those considering a boycott should learn from history.
“We can only repeat and give advice to learn from history – a boycott of the Olympic Games has never achieved anything,” he said at the end of the IOC Session, held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Be mindful of the boycott in Moscow in 1980 because of the intervention of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. The Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 – nine years after.
“So it really served nothing but punishing the athletes and then led to the counter-boycott in Los Angeles. It also has no logic, why would you punish the athletes from your own country if you have a dispute with athletes from another country?
“This just makes no real sense. The athletes would be the ones who are suffering.”
Bach also stated that one of the key principles of the Olympic Charter is political neutrality.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked last month whether TeamGB should boycott the event and said: “We’re not normally in favour of sporting boycotts in this country and that’s been the long-standing position of this Government.”
At the same time, TeamGB chef de mission Georgie Harland said there is “no question” of Britain boycotting the Games.
On Thursday, the president of the United States’ Olympic and Paralympic Committee Susanne Lyons said it would not boycott Beijing.
“Boycotts only hurt athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity to represent their country,” she said.
On this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Bach reiterated his view that the Japanese authorities would have the final say on whether overseas spectators would be allowed into the country.
The president of the local organising committee Seiko Hashimoto has said a decision will be taken by March 25, but there have been calls from IOC members during the Session to delay that.
Bach said: “This is not a decision you can implement from one day to another. There is a lot to follow up with regard to the organisation of the Games, this is extremely complex.
“This is why we said from the very beginning this will be the decision of our Japanese partners and friends and we will respect the decision.”