A group of Lithuanian MPs have called for the country to boycott the upcoming winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The National Olympic Committee says, however, it would be unfair to athletes.
Last week, 17 parliament 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.
“We call on the president, the government, all Lithuanian politicians to boycott the Olympic Games in China, to skip its opening and closing events, not to send any official delegation,” the letter reads.
The signatories include the conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Žygimantas Pavilionis, and the liberal chair of the Human Rights Committee, Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius.
The letter also urges 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”.
Responding to the call, the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LTOK) circulated a statement on Tuesday, 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 said.
Last week, US President Joe Biden said Washington is considering a diplomatic boycott of the games, meaning that American officials would not attend the opening.
The Beijing Winter Olympics will take place on February 4–20.