Thomas Bach suggested the Olympic Games unifying mission had fended off boycott ghosts of the past ©ITG

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has claimed the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics here enjoy the "strong support of the international community", triumphantly hailing that the Games' unifying message has fended off the "boycott ghosts of the past".

Bach made the claim in his speech at the 139th IOC Session in the Chinese capital today.

The IOC Session was opened by Chinese leader Xi Jingping, who praised the IOC’s "important and unique role in governising global solidarity and cooperation".

The build-up to the Games has been dominated by concerns over COVID-19 and China’s human rights record, centring around the host nation’s alleged treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population.

China denies the allegations.

A group of nations, led by the United States, and including Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and New Zealand have opted not to send Government officials to the Games as part of the diplomatic boycott of the event.

Beijing 2022, however, has avoided an outright boycott, with athletes from the nations still competing at the Games.

Bach claimed the unifying message of the Olympic Games had got through to politicians, stressing that the Games can be separated from "political disputes".

Thomas Bach claimed the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics enjoys strong international support ©ITG
Thomas Bach claimed the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics enjoys strong international support ©ITG

"You may remember that at our IOC Sessions in January and July 2020, we could already see the dark clouds of the growing politicisation of sport on the horizon," Bach, who was denied the opportunity to compete at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after West Germany boycotted them in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, told the Session.

"We also saw that in some peoples’ minds, the boycott ghosts of the past were rearing their ugly heads again.

"This is why we have been working even harder to get the unifying mission of the Olympic Games across to as many leaders and decision-makers as possible: the United Nations, the G20 leaders, intergovernmental organisations and national governments, individual politicians and many, many more.

"In all these conversations we stressed that the Olympic Games can only accomplish this unifying mission, that we can only get all humanity together in all our diversity, if the Games stand beyond all differences and political disputes.

"We appealed to them to respect this and thereby to support this precious mission of the Olympic Games.

"Today we can be happy and proud that apparently this message got through.

"All the athletes, who have been overcoming great uncertainties for so long, can make their dream come true and compete at the Beijing 2022."

Bach highlighted the 193 United Nations (UN) member states passing the Olympic Truce Resolution, followed by a solemn appeal of Abdulla Shahid, President of the UN General Assembly.

António Guterres, UN secretary general, also gave a message of support during the IOC Session.

Bach claimed the Winter Olympics could serve as a "symbol of peace and unity".

"We know that sport alone cannot create peace," said Bach.

"We cannot take decisions on war and peace – this is the exclusive remit of politics.

"But when it comes to peace, also words and symbols are important. 

"Because these symbols show us how the world can look like, if we all respect the same rules and each other. 

"The Olympic Games are this symbol of peace and unity, showing us the way to a better and more peaceful future."

Chinese leader Xi Jinping addressed the IOC Session ©IOC
Chinese leader Xi Jinping addressed the IOC Session ©IOC

Bach's comments could be viewed as a reference to the situation on the Ukrainian border, which has seen a recent build-up of Russian troops.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of trying to provoke a conflict in the area to "contain Russia’s development".

Chinese leader Xi delivered a video message at the IOC Session, prior to Beijing becoming the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

"The world today under the combined impact of changes unseen in 100 years and a once in the century pandemic, it is entering a new period of turbulence and transformation and facing multiple changes to humanity," Xi said.

"The IOC has led the Olympic Movement in forging ahead with courage and fortitude, playing an important and unique role in governising global solidarity and cooperation to tide over this difficult time.

"I thank the IOC for its active role in promoting sport in China and support and guidance for China’s bid and preparations."

Xi is expected to officially open the Games tomorrow at the Opening Ceremony in China's National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest.

The Winter Olympics will be held until February 20, followed by the Paralympic Games from March 4 to 13.