Los Angeles – Boycott of the Olympics should be the business of individual athletes, not politicians, says great American skier Lindsey Vonn, as calls mount to move or reject the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing due to the record of China in human rights.
A four-time Olympian, Vonn’s opinion on boycotts has not changed in retirement. She believes the games can be a catalyst for change and shed light on issues such as China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims Washington has called genocide.
“If the athletes want to boycott, it is their prerogative and their right,” said Vonn. “I think one of the great things about the Olympics is that they can shed light on really important topics, not just sports.”
Just seven months away from the Beijing Games from February 4 to 20, rights groups have called for a boycott. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, has pushed for a “diplomatic boycott” with world leaders snubbing the Olympics.
Vonn, a winner of three Olympic medals, including gold in the downhill at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, said she was against the podium protests.
“Allowing the athletes to protest off the podium, I think that’s a good balance,” said Vonn.
“If you think about it, you are on the podium with two other people who also gave their lives to be in this position and you don’t want to take anything away from that, from their victory and their success.”
The 36-year-old American said she was concerned about the pressure on some Olympic athletes whose mental health has been affected, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Michael Phelps to Naomi Osaka and Vonn herself, more and more athletes are detailing such struggles.
In Vonn’s case, her dog Lucy, who often accompanied her on the World Cup circuit, provided emotional support and comfort.
“I think it was something that most people didn’t feel like they could talk about,” Vonn said.
She is helping launch a project supported by German company Allianz, in which Los Angeles skateboarders heading to the Tokyo Olympics will receive support dogs to relieve stress.
“I know from my own experience that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it (mental health),” Vonn said.
“In recent years, more people have come out to express what they are going through, especially Olympic athletes. Most would assume that they have never had any mental health problems.
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Lindsey Vonn, Beijing 2022 Olympic Games