Winter Olympics Beijing: US, Canada, Australia, & UK Diplomatic Boycott

Winter Olympics Beijing: US, Canada, Australia, & UK Diplomatic Boycott
Image © Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
✍️ Written by
Alicia Butler
🗓 Updated
May 19th 2023

The Biden Administration announced on Monday that the U.S. would not send any delegates to represent the country at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

This comes in response to China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims, which the administration labeled a genocide back in March of this year. 

What is a diplomatic boycott?

Diplomatic boycotts are used by governments to put pressure on countries hosting events to make changes to their political policies. A country announcing a diplomatic boycott is a major snub to the country hosting the event. 

Past diplomatic boycotts have been in response to human rights violations or governments that refused to participate in international agreements made by other countries.

Past Diplomatic Boycotts of the Olympic Games

This isn’t the first time a country has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games — no less the U.S. 

There have been four full boycotts of the Olympic Games in the past century, including games in Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, and Seoul. You’ll notice that most of the previous major boycotts happened within four years of each other throughout the 1970s and 80s.

1956 Melbourne Olympics

The first time the Olympics was boycotted was in 1956. 

The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland boycotted in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary; the People’s Republic of China boycotted because Taiwan was allowed to participate as its own country; and Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon boycotted in response to the British-Israel-French invasion of Egypt.

1976 Montreal Olympics

The first of the major boycotts of the 1970s and 80s was of the Olympics was in 1976. More than 20 African nations decided not to attend these games because of a decision made that year by the International Olympic Committee. 

The IOC had decided not to ban New Zealand from the games after its rugby team toured apartheid South Africa, ignoring an international sporting embargo. 

1980 Moscow Olympics

Four years later, the U.S. tried to lead a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

While Britain and Australia supported the U.S. at first, the two countries did end up sending delegates to the events. 

1984 Los Angeles Olympics

In response to the U.S. boycotting the Moscow Olympics, the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics four years later. 

1988: Seoul Olympics

Finally, North Korea boycotted the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Along with North Korea, Cuba, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua also stayed at home. 

One time that an Olympics maybe should have been boycotted but wasn’t? 

The Berlin Olympics of 1936. The U.S. considered boycotting in protest of Naziism in Germany but decided to send delegates in the end anyway. 

Why is the US boycotting the Olympics?

The U.S. and several other countries are boycotting the Olympics in Beijing for several reasons. 

The main reasons are in response to Beijing’s violation of human rights toward Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region and violence toward democracy activists in Hong Kong. 

In March, the Biden Administration labeled the human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslims genocide.

Do boycotts work?

It’s unclear. At this point, we don’t know if boycotts actually work on any significant level. But they can send a clear message to a boycotted country.

David Black, a professor at Dalhousie University who studies sports and international diplomacy says, “Boycotts have impacts in a variety of ways that are almost always indirect, almost always over a relatively extended period of time, and sometimes counterproductive.”

If the Biden Administration sends its delegates to China, it could send a message to the world that it approves of China’s human rights violations.  

Alternatives to a Beijing Boycott

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent, nonpartisan membership think tank has suggested some possible alternatives to boycotting the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. But do these alternatives have a chance of succeeding? 

Relocating the Olympics 

While relocating the games could have been a possibility at one point, it’s unlikely that will happen now — so close to the games. Doing so would have postponed the games (something the IOC probably doesn’t want to do after the postponement of the summer games due to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

Athlete Boycotts

Athletes may boycott Olympic events, though the IOC prohibits this action (the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee has made a statement that it will not punish athlete protests). 

Sponsorship Boycotts

Major Olympics sponsors could also boycott the Olympic games, but none have given the impression they’re willing to do so.

Will US athletes still attend the 2022 Olympics?

Yes! U.S. athletes will still attend the Beijing Olympic Games. 

A country’s decision not to send delegates doesn’t mean it cannot send its athletes. In fact, the reason that countries choose to boycott the Olympics is so that their athletes may decide for themselves whether or not to attend the games. 

The U.S. is sending athletes to Beijing in the categories of skiing, skating, hockey, curling, and more. 

Athletes qualified for Beijing Olympics

Currently, more than a dozen U.S. athletes have already been chosen to represent Team USA in 2022 Beijing the Olympics. The current roster includes athletes in alpine skiing, biathlon, curling, and ice hockey. 

Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin


Susan Dunklee

Clare Egan


Aileen Geving (alternate)

Becca Hamilton

Tabitha Peterson

Tara Peterson

Nina Roth

Matt Hamilton

Colin Hufman (alternate)

John Landsteiner

Chris Plys

John Shuster

Ice Hockey

Seth Jones

Patrick Kane

Auston Matthews

We’ll know the full men’s and women’s ice hockey rosters by early January. 

Team USA Hopefuls

In addition to the 16 athletes already chosen to represent the U.S. in the 2022 Olympics, Team USA will also send more than 200 additional athletes. 

Qualifying events will continue into late January, so hopefuls may not know they’ve made the cut until a few weeks before the games commence on February 4. 

We’ll know the figure skating team’s roster by January 9 and the Alpine skiing team’s lineup by January 16. 

About the Beijing Olympics 2022

The Olympics opening ceremonies will be held in Beijing on February 4, 2022. The games will run until February 20, 2022. 

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About the author
Alicia Butler
Alicia Butler
Editor & Contributor

Since 2011 Alicia has worked as a travel and entertainment writer & editor contributing to widely read digital publications such as The Spruce, The Balance and The Spruce Pets, VeryWell, and TripSavvy. Alicia is a marketing expert, entrepreneur, and avid traveler!

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