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Australia joins US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics – Al Jazeera English

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison cites China’s unwillingness to talk to government officials, and alleged rights abuses for decision.

Australia will not send officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, joining a US diplomatic boycott of the event and risking a further souring of relations with China.

The United States announced its boycott on Monday, citing China’s human rights “atrocities”, fuelling anger in China, which warned of “resolute countermeasures” in response.

Morrison said Wednesday’s decision came because of Australia’s struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang and Beijing’s moves against Australian imports.

“Australian government officials (will), therefore, not be going to China for those games. Australian athletes will, though,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

The formal boycott risks further straining Australia’s relations with China, its largest trading partner, which soured after Canberra introduced foreign interference laws, banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network, and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19. A recent decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact has added to the tension.

Beijing had responded with tariffs on Australian commodities such as barley, beef, coal and wine.

Morrison said on Wednesday that his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences.

“There’s been no obstacle to that occurring on our side, but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues,” he said.

Morrison said any further trade disruptions would be “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

The Winter Olympics begin in February next year. The Australian Olympic Committee said the diplomatic boycott will have no effect on the expected 40 Australian athletes who are set to compete.

Andrew Woodward, a former media adviser to the Sydney Olympics, told Al Jazeera that no one wanted to see a “boycott of the Olympics from an athletic point of view”.

“Think of how the world came together for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year and the joy that brought many, many people,” he said. “Certainly there are many human rights issues in China to address but on the whole it is better to keep the sport and politics separate here.”

China responded furiously to Canberra’s move, saying no Australian officials had been invited to the Olympics and “no one would care about whether they come or not”.

“The Australian politicians’ political posturing and hyping for their own political interest have no impact whatsoever on the successful Beijing Olympic Games, ” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry.

He added that Australia was “blindly following certain countries in their steps to confuse right and wrong without a bottom line”.

Other US allies have been slow to commit to joining the boycott.

The United Kingdom is considering approving limited government attendance at the event in the Chinese capital that would stop short of a full diplomatic boycott, the Telegraph newspaper said on Wednesday.

An outright ban on ministerial and diplomatic representation at the Winter games remains a possibility, it added.

Japan is considering not sending cabinet members to games, too, the Sankei Shimbun daily said on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.

In South Korea, however, an aide to President Moon Jae-in told the Yonhap news agency that Seoul is not considering a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics.

New Zealand earlier said its government representatives would not attend, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

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Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste to review Australian events 'as soon as possible' – National Post

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Lacoste, owned by Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multiyear deal with Djokovic as sponsor in 2017

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Leading Novak Djokovic sponsor Lacoste has said it plans to “review” the events that led to the tennis star’s deportation from Australia, highlighting the potential fallout for athletes who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

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“As soon as possible, we will be in touch with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia,” Lacoste said on Monday.

Lacoste, owned by Swiss group MF Brands, signed a multiyear deal with Djokovic as sponsor in 2017. According to Forbes, the men’s world number one earns $30 million a year from sponsorship tie-ups.

The review comes after Djokovic, who has declined to be vaccinated against COVID-19, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Australian courts had decided to uphold a government decision to cancel his visa. The ruling means he is unable to compete in this month’s Australian Open tournament.

Djokovic had entered Australia with a medical exemption from a vaccine requirement but had his initial visa cancelled. He had sought to stay in the country to compete for a record 21st grand slam title but his legal challenge was unsuccessful. He has now been deported and returned to Serbia.

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Djokovic’s opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations highlights the dilemma facing sports sponsors, which must weigh up their approach when athletes raise objections to widely recommended public health measures such as vaccination.

His participation in the French Open, the next grand slam on the tennis calendar, is also in doubt after Roxana Maracineanu, sports minister for France, said that spectators, staff and players would need to show proof of vaccination to enter sports stadiums and other public places. The tournament in Paris is due to start in May.

Other sponsors of Djokovic include carmaker Peugeot, luxury watch brand Hublot and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International.

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Raiffeisen, which agreed a tie-up with Djokovic in April last year, said his “high reputation in central and eastern Europe” was its motivation for the multiyear deal and pointed to “his social commitment”.

But it added that the partnership had been agreed “long before the current reporting on Novak Djokovic and his COVID-19 vaccination status, or his participation in the Australian Open”.

Hublot previously told the Financial Times: “Novak Djokovic is his own person. We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions.”

Lacoste, founded by two tennis players in 1933, thanked the organizers of the Australian Open for “all their efforts to ensure that the tournament is held in good conditions for players, staff and spectators”.

Djokovic first voiced opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in 2020.

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd

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Athletics Canada CEO David Bedford facing complaints over Twitter posts – CBC Sports

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The CEO of Athletics Canada is apologizing for a series of sexually suggestive Twitter exchanges made over a number of months and posted to his personal account.

Dave Bedford posted the tweets as replies to nearly a dozen different Twitter accounts. The tweets have since been deleted.

“It’s my personal account. It’s not like I was sending out photos or tweets myself,” Bedford told CBC Sports. “In this day and age with all we have been going through, I found some of these things funny so I commented. It’s apparent others didn’t feel the same way so I removed them.”

In his personal Twitter bio, Bedford identifies himself as the CEO of Athletics Canada and provides a link to the publicly funded organization’s website, which — as the national governing body of athletics — represents thousands of elite and amateur athletes across the country.

After receiving a number of internal complaints over the weekend, Athletics Canada’s board chair Helen Manning spoke to Bedford who then deleted the offensive tweets and locked his account.

Emergency board meeting

Athletics Canada will hold an emergency board meeting Monday night to decide next steps. Board chair Helen Manning said confidence in Bedford’s ongoing ability to lead will be a central point of discussion and didn’t rule out asking for Bedford’s resignation.

“There are certainly concerns that have been expressed by some of our membership,” Manning said. “Those types of comments are not something that is in keeping with the policy of how we see our people in the public domain.”

Manning said the organization has done a lot of work with Safe Sport, which aims to eliminate sexual harassment as well as physical and mental harassment among athletic organizations.

“We have spent a great deal of time and effort focused on trying to ensure the safest and most welcoming environment for our athletes and all of our members,” Manning said.

Audrey Giles, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a member of Athletics Canada’s Safe Sport Committee, said Bedford’s behaviour brings his judgment into question.

‘Raises questions’

“If he felt that that sort of public behaviour was acceptable, it raises questions about if he is the right person to be leading an organization through this era of safe sport,” Giles said. “I think it’s just like the hypocrisy of talking about having to hold coaches to a higher account, having to make spaces that are safe for athletes. Yet being somebody who engages in this, frankly, creepy online behaviour with women?

“I recognize that people can have a very diverse and exciting sexual lives. But when you are a leader of an organization, I think that the standards are higher.”

Bedford was hired by Athletics Canada in 2019 and has worked in a variety of leadership roles across Canadian sport, including the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

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Soccer-Lewandowski and Putellas win FIFA Best awards

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Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski won the FIFA Best Men’s Player award for 2021 with Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas winning the FIFA Best Women’s Player prize at Monday’s ceremony.

The prolific Lewandowski won the award for the second straight year after a season in which he beat Gerd Mueller’s 49-year old record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga campaign.

“Robert is someone special. He is the greatest footballer in the history of our country. The best Polish ambassador and a role model for young people, not only those playing football,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Facebook.

The 27-year-old Putellas was at the heart of the Barcelona women’s team which won the Spanish league and the UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea won both the awards for best coach, with Thomas Tuchel winning the men’s award and Emma Hayes named the best women’s coach.

Tuchel had guided Chelsea to the Champions League title after taking over the club in January while Hayes won the Women’s Super League, FA Cup and League Cup treble in England.

The West London club enjoyed further recognition with their Senegal international Edouard Mendy winning the Best Men’s Goalkeeper award.

Chile and Olympique Lyonnais’ Christiane Endler was named The Best Women’s Goalkeeper.

The Puskas Award for best goal of the year was won by Argentine Erik Lamela, now with Spanish club Sevilla, for his goal for Tottenham Hotspur against Arsenal.

The Denmark national team and their medical staff won the Fair Play award for their swift response after Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field during the Euro 2020 game with Finland.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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