China, Russia in close contact on Putin's Beijing Winter Olympics visit, ‘shows mutual support’ amid Western threat of Olympic boycott
Published: Nov 23, 2021 09:42 PM
Putin Photo:VCG

Putin Photo:VCG

Russian President Vladimir Putin has "gladly accepted the invitation" to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and the two countries are in close communication on Putin's trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.

Putin's acceptance of the invitation will further cement China-Russia ties, reinforce mutual support and expand the areas of the two countries' already close communication in politics, economy and military to sports and people-to-people exchanges, analysts said. 

The planned trip also demonstrates Russia's firm support to China at major international events and the country's support for the Olympic cause, which is in sharp contrast to a few Western leaders who are politicizing sports by mulling a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics and ruining the Olympic spirit, analysts noted.    

"Chinese President Xi Jinping was invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. This time, Xi invited his good friend Putin to attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and Putin has gladly accepted the invitation," Zhao noted at Tuesday's media briefing. 

The two sides are in close communication on the trip, Zhao said, adding that the two heads of state will once again demonstrate friendly and neighborly partnership by meeting at the Winter Olympics.  

"I believe athletes of the two countries will deliver their best performances and contribute to a simple, safe, and wonderful sporting event for the world," Zhao said.  

Russian media reported on Friday that Putin was invited to attend the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. After all the details are agreed on, Russia and China will announce the trip together. Putin said a day earlier that Russia-China relations are the strongest in history. He also said Russia knows the West is trying to disturb the relations, but the two countries will ignore that and continue expanding interactions.

The interaction between the two heads of state shows that the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era between the two countries has further deepened to not only politics, economy and military but also on sports and people-to-people exchanges, Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"Especially amid the complex international situation steered by Western forces to target China and Russia by all means, the two sides need to stand closer with each other and make clear our stances on international issues," he noted.

China showed its support for Russia as President Xi attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014, the first time a Chinese head of state had attended the opening ceremony of a major sports event held overseas. The Chinese leader's attendance came as Russia had faced criticism and boycott of the 22nd Winter Olympics by some Western political figures, reportedly due to Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which outlawed the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" around minors. 

Xi's visit then not only further enhanced China-Russia ties, but also showed China's openness and confidence as a major country as well as the country's upholding of the Olympic spirit.   

Yang added that it has become a "common practice" for the West to politicize international sporting events when the host country is either China or Russia, citing examples of Western boycotts during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and now the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games is something the US is considering, when he met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Oval Office, CNBC reported. The UK is also reportedly in discussion with other members of the Five Eyes Alliance including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, on a diplomatic boycott of the Games.

"The Olympic Games were first held to advocate peace and cooperation, not confrontation. In light of such an Olympic spirit, the West's behavior is shameless," Yang noted.

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in late October that 216 Russian athletes are expected to take part in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. "There will be about 450 people altogether. So far, 102 athletes have received qualifications," TASS news agency reported.

Russia topped the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics with 11 gold medals and 18 silvers and bronzes. The US came in second. 

According to data, the total medal tally for Russia (including medals claimed by the Soviet Union and Olympic athletes from Russia who participated in the 2018 Winter Games) from all 23 Olympic Winter Games is 331, placing second, while the US has won 305 medals. 

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, held in Beijing and Zhangjiakou of North China's Hebei Province, are scheduled to run from February 4 to 20.