Lithuanian athletes reject MPs’ call to boycott Beijing 2022

Legislators in Lithuania, which has very strained relations with China, have called Lithuanian athletes to drop plans to go to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The country’s Olympic community has rejected the call, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.
In mid-November, 17 Seimas’ members of the ruling coalition released an open letter, urging the country’s political leaders, sporting bodies and athletes not to go to China, arguing that prestigious sporting events should not be hosted by «authoritarian countries» that violate human rights. The letter also urged athletes «to take a civic position [and] not to take part in attempts to turn them into puppets of a spectacle orchestrated by an authoritarian regime».
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Answering to the call, the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LTOK) circulated a statement on Tuesday, November 23, ruling out a boycott.
«The Olympic Games are an event of the entire world, an entire Olympic movement, not the host country,» it said, noting that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abides by the principle of political neutrality. Moreover, the LTOK argues, every national Olympic committee is obliged to take part in the games, risking sanctions from the IOC.
«An athlete’s career is a short one, while Olympic games are the most important event they are preparing for longer than a year or four years. We therefore do not think it would be fair to ask athletes to give up this opportunity for political reasons,» the LTOK argued.
The Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place on February 4 to 20.
The article originally appeared on LRT English: