A British silver medallist and a prominent US coach at the Beijing Winter Olympics have criticised the decision to award the Games to China over its human rights record.
The Games officially open Friday but the lead-up has been overshadowed by concerns about rights in China, especially the fate of the Muslim Uyghur minority.
The United States is leading a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in the Chinese capital over what it calls genocide and crimes against humanity in the region of Xinjiang. China denies the accusations.
Chinese authorities last month warned competitors against criticising the Beijing government, but British freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy — who won silver at the 2014 Sochi Games while competing for the United States — said he would not be silenced.
“In my opinion I don’t think any country should be allowed to host the Games if they have appalling human rights stances,” he told the BBC ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
The 30-year-old added: “I know the Olympics are so important to China and they are always so high up in the medal count, that I feel like by actually taking a stance against them in a real tangible way you could probably make some positive change.
“But it’s all about money, it seems like. I don’t really think they’re well suited to host the Games.”
Speaking in Beijing, American figure-skating coach and former Olympian Adam Rippon said he hopes the Games will bring added scrutiny on the host country.
“What I hope with these Games is that there is so much attention brought to these issues about human rights it does put pressure on the Chinese government to really address it,” the 32-year-old, a team bronze medallist at the 2018 Winter Games, told CNN.
“Because when you think about it, why should you award the Games to a country that has these things going on?”