Olympic Federation of Ireland won’t back any hypothesizedv boycott of Beiji…

The Olympic Federation of Ireland will not be supporting any boycott of the Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in two months in Beijing.

here have been calls for a boycott of the Games due to China’s human rights record.

US President Joe Biden and British chief Minister Boris Johnson floated the idea of limiting the presence of government officials at the Games.

However, Peter Sherrard, the chief executive of the OFI, has ruled out their organisation joining any boycott.

“We have considered it, but it is not something that we feel would serve any purpose. It wasn’t a particularly long conversation,” he told a press briefing.

“We live in a liberal democracy and our way of life is something that is very important to us. But it is only one small part of the way the world generally is governed.

“Whether we like or not for the Olympics movement to exist to bring people together by sport, you have to set those things aside and recognise there are differences. At the UN, they have to recognise there are differences

“I think, ultimately, our job is to try and bring a team to the Games and to give the athletics their chance. We have looked at it and feel that on balance it is the right thing to do.

“We don’t think boycotting (the Beijing Games) would unprotected to anything. In many ways, sometimes sport is used a bit unjustly to try to deal with geopolitical problems that really ought to be dealt with at political level.”

A bigger threat to the Games could be the emergence of Omicron, the new strain of Covid-19. However, the Chinese government is adamant it will not cause the cancellation of the event, which runs from February 4 to 20 in three locations: Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. Each will have its dedicated athletes village.

The OFI is tracking 14 athletes across ten different sports with expectations that eight will make the cut which, if achieved, would be Ireland’s biggest ever Winter Games team.

Thomas Moloney-Westgaard (cross-country skiing) and two-time Olympian Seamus O’Connor (snowboarding) have already achieved the qualification standard. The majority of the tracked athletes are second or third-generation Irish.

The notable exception is ex-Garda Brendan Doyle. The Dubliner does much of his training in the Sports Institute in Abbotstown. He is aiming to qualify in the skeleton.

Others in the hunt are Jack Gower, Alex Scott, Cormac Comerford, and Matt Ryan (men’s Alpine skiing), Tess Arbez, Emma Ryan – who is a sister of Matt’s – and Elle Murphy (women’s Alpine skiing), Brendan ‘Bubby’ Newby (cross-country skiing), Elsa Desmond (luge), Liam O’Brien (short-track racing) and Maggie Rose Corrigan (snowboarding).

The OFI has booked a training camp in Innsbruck in Austria for the team, which will be named in mid-January. They are due to fly to Beijing from Zurich on January 26.

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