SALT LAKE CITY — Senator Mitt Romney was a driving force in the success of the 2002 Olympic Games in Utah, and so it's not a surprise that he doesn't agree with calls for the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I’m happy if President Biden himself boycotts the Olympics in Beijing. I don’t want our athletes to suffer. They’ve planned their whole lives to be ready at this point for this competition, so I don’t want to do things that hurt our athletes,” he said, as reported by the Deseret News.
Calls for a boycott came from Rep. John Kato, R-N.Y., who urged President Biden to respond to the Chinese government’s suspected human rights violations against the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group, by refusing to attend the Games.
“The actions taken by the Chinese Communist Party are antithetical to the values of both the United States and its allies around the world,” Katko wrote. “Participation in an Olympics held in a country who is openly committing genocide not only undermines those shared values but casts a shadow on the promise for all those who seek free and just societies.”
Senator Romney said he agrees with taking action to express the United States' disapproval with China over its human rights violations, but added “We’re going to see if we can’t find some ways to make our concerns about China very, very clear without punishing our athletes."
Short of penalizing the athletes who have trained a lifetime for the Games, he said encouraging spectators not to travel to China or including media coverage of the Uighurs as part of the Olympics broadcast would help to underscore the abuses.
But those in favor of a boycott don't believe this is sufficient. “Mr. President, the evidence is clear — the (Chinese Communist Party) is deliberately and systematically working to eliminate an entire population within its own borders,” wrote Rep. Katko, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security, in the his letter. He asked President Biden to work with other countries to move the Games to a country with a “peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Last year's Summer Games in Tokyo were canceled due to COVID-19, but International Olympic Committee President Thomas Back believes they will go on this year as currently scheduled.