Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Friday backed calls for the US to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, saying that China’s “nasty” activity made it an inappropriate host.
Pompeo, a vociferous critic of Beijing while he was former US president Donald Trump’s top diplomat, said that the previous administration had tried in its final months to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the Winter Games.
“I hope that our athletes get a chance to participate in the Olympics,” Pompeo told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “They very much deserve that, but in the end, we cannot allow American athletes to travel to Beijing and reward the Chinese Communist Party all the while that they [are] doing all of the nasty activity that they’re engaged in.”
“The Olympics are an expression of freedom and athletic talent and to hold them in Beijing is completely inappropriate,” he said.
A number of politicians in the US have called for a boycott.
Some have linked a boycott to Beijing’s mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, a policy that Pompeo in his final full day in office declared to be genocide.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has agreed with the genocide assessment.
However, US President Joe Biden’s administration, like Trump’s team while in power, has not stated a position on boycotting the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on Feb. 4 next year.
China has denounced calls for a boycott and denies genocide, saying it is providing vocational training to minorities to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism.
The US led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over an invasion of Afghanistan by the then-Soviet Union, with the Soviet bloc in retaliation boycotting the Summer Games in Los Angeles four years later.
Separately, Qatar was still committed to bidding for the 2032 Summer Olympics, despite the IOC heading into exclusive talks with top choice, Brisbane.
The IOC used its new, more flexible bidding process last week to name the Australian coastal city its preferred choice more than 11 years before the Games.
That decision seemed to surprise other expected candidates, including the capital of Qatar, Doha, and Budapest, Hungary.
The Qatar Olympic Committee on Friday “reiterated its total commitment to maintaining continuous dialogue” with an IOC-appointed panel, which can have ongoing talks — and even approach — likely candidates for any future Games.
Doha applied to enter two previous Summer Games bidding contests, but did not progress to be accepted on the IOC’s list of candidates.
One factor weighing against Qatar is the searing heat in the July and August, the slot that the IOC prefers to hold the Summer Games.
Doha hosted the 2019 track and field world championships from late September into October.
“We have listened and learned from our two previous bids and humbly believe that we are now perfectly positioned to deliver a low-risk, sustainable and world-class edition of the Games,” Qatari Olympic leader Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said in a statement.
The IOC has given no timetable for a decision to confirm Brisbane or open up the contest.
Additional reporting by AP
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