Lord Coe explains why he thinks boycotts of sporting events are meaningless

13 February 2022, 12:05

By Elizabeth Haigh

Lord Coe has told LBC he disagrees with sporting boycotts because it leads to "lost opportunities" for diplomacy and international relations.

The President of World Athletics and double gold medallist told Tom Swarbrick on Sunday: "I just am philosophically opposed to boycotts across the board."

He said the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics by western nations including the UK and USA was a "missed opportunity".

"If you have big moments when internationally people come together, whether its sport, whether its COP26, G7s or G20s, there is a platform to raise other issues that matter to people and I don’t like losing those opportunities."

He argued sport transcends political boundaries and can lead to encouraging dialogues between countries from across the world.

"My gut instinct is that it is far better to use sporting opportunities to shine a flashlight onto these political issues.

"Human rights are something we take extremely seriously particularly in world athletics."

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Lord Coe said: "To base your sporting relationships on current, transient or maybe even permanent political systems is actually very dangerous.

"For all its mutations and for all its challenges that international sport has it does actually provide a great opportunity for this type of dialogue to take place.

"I have conversations that are far more uncompromising with political leaderships… than I would probably be having if I was a jobbing minister fearful of losing contracts."

He described witnessing boycotts at Olympic Games he competed in: "I was at the epicentre of the 1980 boycott when the British government fell in behind the United States and four years later we had another boycott of Los Angeles.

He pointed to the UK's 2012 Olympic Games and said many nations came to the UK and discussed foreign policy issues with UK representatives.

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The decision to give the Winter Olympic Games to China is deeply controversial due to its history of human rights abuses.

China has come under fire for its mistreatment of Uighur muslims in the country, which include sending them to "re-education" camps.

Many have described torture and inhuman conditions at the camps.

The government has also been criticised for its handling of Peng Shuai, a female tennis player who accused a major political figure of sexual assault.

Ms Shuai disappeared from social media after making the allegations online, and has now retracted her claims.

At the time, tennis organisations and governments around the world put pressure on China to prove the player was safe and well, and had not been detained by Chinese officials.

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