Tue, 30 Nov 2021

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Boycotting the Olympic Games harms the interests of athletes and is doomed to fail.

BEIJING, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- With the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games just 70 days away, athletes around the world are racing against the clock to get ready for the Games, hoping to shine on the global stage next February.

Some distractions, however, are bothering the entire Olympic family. A small minority of politicians and groups are threatening to boycott Beijing 2022 due to so-called human rights issues in China.

But make no mistake: a boycott, either of the entire Games or of the opening ceremony, is a naked utilization of the long-awaited winter sports extravaganza as a political tool. And one thing is clear: the boycott itself only harms the athletes from their own countries.

The Olympics tends to inspire patriotism, with fans as well as political leaders cheering on the athletes representing their country at the Games. Parading into the main stadium where the opening ceremony takes place, athletes usually have their eyes set on the rostrum to acknowledge the applause from those invited dignitaries from their respective countries. It offers a sense of homecoming and encouragement to all athletes, who would soon turn their attention to the competitions.

There will be no overseas spectators at the 2022 Winter Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So it is the athletes who would be extremely disappointed if their political leaders decide to boycott the opening ceremony.

By contrast, more potent evidence comes from athletes' consistent expressions of their huge anticipation towards Beijing 2022.

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Zbigniew Brodka, Olympic speed skating champion in Sochi 2014, confirmed early in October that he had resumed his career in order to take part in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing as "the return to China would be sentimental."

This return marked Brodka's first trial on the track since the World Cup in Inzell in February 2019.

"I wanted to fight for participation in a fourth Winter Olympics. So I came back," the Pole explained.

Recalling his trip to China for a junior match almost two decades ago, the 37-year-old added that China would be a perfect place for him to say goodbye.

"In 2003, it was in Beijing that I competed in my first world junior championship. So it would bookend my entire career," he said.

John Shuster, 39, led the U.S. men's curling team to win his first Olympic gold at PyeongChang 2018, and hopes to make history in Beijing as no one has ever won multiple gold medals in men's curling.

"It's going to be special to get a chance to go back [to the Olympics] and see what we can do," the American curler told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) website.

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Multiple Olympic ski jumping gold medalist and world champion Kamil Stoch, also from Poland, said he could not wait for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

"This is a really special time as the Winter Olympics is approaching. For every athlete, the Olympic competition is a great celebration. I cannot wait."

After pre-Olympic test runs for Beijing 2022 on the new Yanqing track, athletes from bobsleigh and skeleton title favorites Germany have lavished praise on the infrastructure.

Four-time Olympic champion and tobogganist Natalie Geisenberger said she is excited to experience a new track.

"It's my fourth Olympics and I still want to win medals," she added.

Beijing 2022 organizers revealed that up until November 17, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some European countries have submitted 14,206 registration applications, including over 7,100 for athletes, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has submitted 1,528 applications.

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"I'm absolutely delighted to finally get the news that we're going to be heading to Beijing," said British curler Bruce Mouat after being announced in the first batch of athletes to the Games by the British Olympic Association in October.

For Geoff Lipshut, Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team, Australian athletes are cherishing the opportunity to compete at Beijing 2022.

"I think going to Beijing and having that opportunity is the most important thing for each of the athletes," he told Xinhua in an interview.

The organizers have underlined some key phrases in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, such as "Athletes-centered", which ought to be adhered to by all stakeholders, and any boycott is a grave breach of this widely acknowledged concept.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe believes a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics would only serve as "a meaningless gesture", claiming non-engagement between government officials rarely bears fruit.

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"That is a meaningless gesture and a damaging gesture," Coe told BBC Radio.

"No organizing committee or National Olympic Federation, if I'm being a little blunt here, is going to miss a minister."

"My instinct here is that hectoring or non-engagement, in the world of international sports politics, I have rarely seen that approach bear fruit," he added.

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