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Utah Olympic organizers to visit Beijing despite call for boycott

Dec 14, 2021, 5:48 AM
A crew member leaps to fix a logo for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics before a launch ceremony to ...
A crew member leaps to fix a logo for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics before a launch ceremony to reveal the motto for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing on Sept. 17, 2021. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein / AP

SALT LAKE CITY – While one Utah congressman is calling on the United States to completely boycott the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, organizers in Utah say they won’t change their plans to observe the games in China.

In an interview on KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic, Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT2) reinforced his stance on boycotting the 2022 games

Rep. Stewart backed legislation in March that laid out plans for America to boycott the games if two things didn’t happen; if the Chinese government wasn’t forthcoming about their treatment of Uyghurs, and if the US couldn’t influence China to close forced labor camps. Stewart says both of those changes never happened.

Stewart says he agrees with critics who say a boycott would be unfair to the athletes, but he believes the US has to send a stronger statement to officials in China.

“There are millions of Chinese Uyghurs, Muslim Uyghurs, essentially put in concentration camps [and] forced labor camps.  We have the absolute malicious way they responded to COVID, and as a direct result of that, we have millions of deaths around the world that were 100 percent avoidable,” Stewart told KSL NewsRadio.

Utahns to head to the Olympic games

Despite the call for a boycott, Olympic organizers say they have no intentions of changing their plans, which include sending three members of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games to Beijing to observe the Olympics up close.

Committee CEO Fraser Bullock says, “We’re in an official [International Olympic Committee] IOC observer program to look behind the scenes how they put on the games,” Bullock says.  “What has changed since 2002?”

Bullock says the committee’s sole focus is learning everything they can about winning a bid and hosting a successful games, especially since the process is far different than it was when Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“We know that there are political issues that are out there, but that’s not our area,” he says.

Committee Chair Catherine Raney Norman applauds the president’s diplomatic boycott, which still allows American athletes to compete in Beijing. She’s a former Olympian and says people within the athletic community have never forgotten the American boycott of the 1980 games.

She says, “I can tell you, that is still felt throughout the movement as raw as it was in 1980.”

The committee is planning to host events for the 20th anniversary of the 2002 games in February, and Raney Norman thinks the celebrations may convince the IOC that Salt Lake is serious about hosting another winter games.

“I think that is an opportunity for us to continue to showcase to the IOC that, for us, it wasn’t just 17 days in ’02, but something we have continued on for 20 years,” she says.

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