Dick Pound defends IOC’s decision to award Olympics to China

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Longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound is defending his organization’s decision to stage the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, despite heavy criticism of China’s human-rights record.

In an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio, the Montreal lawyer said China is a capable host.

“In the sense of having a host country that could organize and put on excellent Games from a Games perspective, there is absolutely nothing wrong with China,” Pound said. “It’s a very good and very organized country.”

Pound said there were only two bidders for the 2022 Games in 2015 — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — after several European possibilities dropped out.

“When we award the Games to a country, we don’t do it as an indication we support the political objectives of that country,” Pound said. “It’s done on the basis of the importance of the country as a sporting nation and its ability to organize the Games at the level the world now expects for an Olympic Games.”

Several countries, including Canada, have announced they will stage a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

“The Olympic values it’s a complicated situation as you know because the IOC has no power, it has no mandate, it has no role to play in bringing about political change,” Pound said. “What it tries to do is walk between the traps and focus on young people getting together for sport.”

Pound was asked what would happen if an Olympic athlete, during the Games, posted on social media about reported genocide against Uyghurs.

“I don’t know enough of the facts about this,” he said. “I hear them, see them in the media, but you know enough about your own media to know that sometimes what is asserted as a fact is not necessarily so. It would be helpful if there was an independent review of what was going on and so forth. Maybe that’s a step the Chinese would be prepared to consider.”

The IOC also has been criticized for its handling of the Peng Shuai situation.

After five weeks of concern about the safety of the tennis player, the International Olympic Committee said last week it cannot give any certainties about her case.

The IOC’s two video calls with the Grand Slam doubles champion are the only reported contacts Peng has had with people outside China since Nov. 2 when she sent a social media post alleging she was sexually assaulted by a former top Communist Party official.

The WTA Tour has taken a harder line, suspending women’s tennis tournaments in China because of concerns over Peng’s safety.

Pound previously told CNN he didn’t understand the criticism of the IOC for the video calls.

“I must say I’m really puzzled by that assessment of it,” Pound told Amanpour when asked what he said to those who felt it was an unsatisfactory intervention. “Basically, lots of people around the world were looking to see what happened to Peng. Nobody was able to establish contact. Only the IOC was able to do so.”

— With files from The Associated Press

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