IOC President Thomas Bach Pushes for 'Peace' in Opening Ceremony Speech at 2022 Winter Olympics

"Give peace a chance," said the IOC President in his address after the Parade of Nations

Thomas Bach, IOC President makes a speech during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
Thomas Bach. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach used his speech at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games' Opening Ceremony to promote "peace" across the globe while subtly hinting at some of the controversy surrounding the Games' host nation.

"In this Olympic spirit of peace, I appeal to all political authorities across the world — observe your commitment to this Olympic truth. Give peace a chance," said Bach, 68, in Friday's address after the Parade of Nations.

Bach's speech comes after at least four countries — the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom — announced diplomatic boycotts of this year's Winter Games over China's human rights record. U.S. President Joe Biden, whose wife First Lady Dr. Jill Biden went to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan, did not attend the Opening Ceremony in Beijing.

The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a province in northwest China, is home to various ethnic groups — including 12 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim groups — who've faced systematic oppression by Chinese authorities, according to human rights organizations and detailed media accounts.

Human Rights Watch reports that up to a million people from the province have been sent to prisons, detention centers and "political education" camps, where they many endure long sentences, torture, hard labor and political and cultural indoctrination.

Chinese officials regularly dispute the accounts of human rights abuse — dismissing dissidents as liars motivated by anti-Chinese sentiment. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called the diplomatic boycotts "outright political provocation."

In his speech on Friday, Bach said athletes will set an important example at the Beijing Olympics, as they have in the past.

"You, the Olympics athletes, you will show how the world could look like if we all respect the same rules and each other," the IOC president told the competitors.

China's President Xi Jinping declares the games open during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
China's President Xi Jinping. Anthony Wallace - Pool/Getty Images

While competing at the Winter Games, athletes are expected to "live peacefully together under one roof" at the Olympic Village. As Bach noted, "there will be no discrimination for any reason whatsoever," at the facility.

"In our fragile world, when division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world — yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together," Bach said in his address. "This is the mission of the Olympic Games. Bringing us together in peaceful competition. Always building bridges, never erecting walls. Uniting humankind in all of our diversity."

In December, the United Nations general assembly adopted the Olympics Truce Resolution by consensus. The resolution, as Bach explained, specifically references athletes' promotion of peace and empathy "through the Olympic idea."

Earlier that month, President Biden had announced the U.S.'s diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games due to China's human rights record. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that no U.S. officials would attend the Games, though American athletes would still be permitted to compete.

"The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic games given the [People's Republic of China's] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," Psaki said at a briefing on Dec. 6.

"The athletes on team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home," she continued before adding, "We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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