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Czech President against boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

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Prague, Czech Republic –Czech President Miloš Zeman said he was opposed to the “political abuse”, including calls for boycotts, of the Olympic Games.

In a statement published on the presidential office’s website, Zeman wished Czech athletes good luck in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing to be held next month.

“I am fundamentally opposed to the abuse of the Olympic ideal for political purposes,” he added, coming out against the diplomatic boycott of the games.

Several Western and Asian countries – including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan – said they would boycott this year’s Winter Olympics, citing China’s human rights violations, and decided not to send any government officials to attend the opening ceremony or any other related event.

The boycott is only diplomatic, and athletes from these nations will still participate in the competition.

Last June, the Czech Senate also voted in favour of a similar boycott, reminding the precedent from 2008, when they argued the Summer Olympics served to legitimise China’s communist and authoritarian regime despite the country’s poor human rights record and continued restrictions on the free movement of athletes and journalists during the competition.

A few weeks ago, several top Czech politicians, including Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, said they were in favour of the Czech Republic joining the diplomatic boycott, with Prime Minister Petr Fiala hinting that his government could soon make a decision on the matter through a collective vote.

Several sources consider it “highly probable” the Czech Republic will boycott the 2022 Olympics. The issue is widely seen as one of the first tests of the new government after it pledged to take a tougher stance on China and put greater emphasis on human rights concerns in its foreign policy.

Notoriously pro-China, Czech President Miloš Zeman has for years worked to strengthen ties with the world’s second-largest economy, to the dismay of a large part of the Czech political establishment.

In his statement, Zeman also expressed the hope that the Olympic organisers would act like professionals and “not like amateurs who let unvaccinated people on board”, a statement referring to the debacle experienced last year when half a dozen members of the Czech Olympic team tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after their arrival in Tokyo.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.