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Florida lawmakers: winter games shouldn’t share stage with genocide

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 3:05 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Florida lawmakers turn up the political heat on Winter Olympic organizers. They argue the games shouldn’t share an international stage with genocide.

For athletes, the pressure is on with less than a year left to earn their spot in the 2022 Olympics. Meanwhile, politicians and human rights advocates grow louder in calls to bench Beijing, by finding a new country to host the games.

“The Olympics need to be moved out of communist China,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). He said China’s human rights track record falls short of every standard, never mind the Olympics’.

Scott’s list of issues include: millions wrongly-imprisoned for political purposes, trampling on Hong Kong’s rights, and evidence that the country harvested organs from executed prisoners without concent.

The Biden administration accuses the Chinese of genocide, rounding up and killing off Uyghurs, an ethnic and religious minority. That’s the same conclusion previously drawn by the Trump administration.

The International Olympic Committee has not taken any public steps to suggest it will move the games from China – which last hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“These are not tough decisions,” said Scott, “this is, ‘do you believe in human rights?’ It’s pretty basic.”

Spokespeople for the I.O.C. declined our interview request and directed us to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. We never heard back from them or the Chinese Embassy.

“I am firmly against Beijing having the honor of being allowed to host the 2022 Olympics,” said Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), “I think we need to find a solution, an alternative quickly.”

Camack criticizes China’s support for North Korea and handling of the coronavirus along with the alleged human rights abuses.

But neither she nor Scott are ready to go as far as Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) who calls for an American boycott if the games aren’t moved.

“We need something to rally around and the games are a great opportunity,” she said, adding that she believes plenty of countries would be willing to host on short notice.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the athletes to boycott,” said Scott.

America participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics but stayed home for the 1980 games in the U.S.S.R. If the U.S. skips 2022, it would be the first country to boycott a Winter Olympiad.

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) did not have a comment on the controversy. Spokespeople for Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) did not respond to our interview request.

In late February, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president has not made a final decision regarding whether to boycott the games.

Gray Television wasn’t able to connect with Florida Olympic speedskaters Joey Mantia, Erin Jackson, and Brittany Bowe. But, in an interview with CNN, U.S. Ski Team golden girl Mikaela Shiffrin said it’s a tricky balance to weigh one’s limited Olympic opportunities with taking a stand against injustice.

“You don’t want to miss it,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said of the games, “and you certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights - like morality, versus being able to do your job, which on the other hand can bring light to some issues.”

Shiffrin said it feels like the I.O.C. should give more consideration to human rights given the games are meant to bring the world together. She said she would like to see organizers choose ‘more fitting’ host countries.

The games are scheduled to begin on February 4th of next year.

Copyright 2021 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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