Beijing Winter Olympics: Russia rejects 'pointless' diplomatic boycott; France, Germany call for EU response

Russia's Olympic Committee chief said on Thursday the country did not support the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics by some Western countries, denouncing the move as "pointless," while France also ruled out such a move.

The United States, Canada, Australia and Britain announced they would not send any state officials to the Games in February because of China's human rights record, although their respective athletes will still compete. China has denounced the decision.

"From a sports point of view, these measures are absolutely pointless," Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told reporters.

"These measures are exclusively of a political nature... We really hope that they will not cast a shadow over the Games."

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to attend the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics after receiving an invitation from China.

"Our head of state will be present and this will be an additional motivating factor for all members of the Russian Olympic Committee team," Pozdnyakov said.

Russian athletes are barred from competing at major international events under their flag and with their anthem as part of doping sanctions that end in December 2022.

In Beijing, Russians will compete as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee under the acronym "ROC."

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Thursday that the country would not joint the boycott initiated by the United States, and its Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was a need for a common European stand on the issue of a diplomatic boycott. German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed the call for a common stance.

French President Emmanuel Macron said later on Thursday he would rather work with the International Olympic Committee on the protection of athletes around the world than engage in symbolic boycotts.

"We must not politicise [the Olympics]," Macron told a press conference. "As with all things on the international stage, I prefer to do things that have a useful effect."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced the decision to diplomatically boycott the Games as a "farce."

Speaking to reporters, Wenbin said: "It doesn't matter if their officials come or not, they will see the success of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"Sports has nothing to do with politics. It is they who have written, directed and performed this farce."