IOC President Thomas Bach said that 2022 had been "as successful as it was turbulent" ©IOC/Greg Martin

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has delivered his New Year message, and described 2022 as "successful as it was turbulent".

The Winter Olympics took place in Beijing from February 4 to 20, making the Chinese capital the first city to stage the summer and winter editions of the Games.

However, Beijing 2022 took place against a backdrop of human rights concerns, with hosts China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and its record in Tibet and Hong Kong coming under scrutiny.

This sparked a diplomatic boycott from Western nations including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada.

Beijing consistently denied the charges laid against it, and dismissed a United Nations (UN) report in August that found "serious human rights violations" against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as a "politicised document that ignores the facts".

The IOC's handling of these concerns was criticised by human rights groups, although earlier this year it introduced a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and launched an Advisory Committee on Human Rights.

Bach maintained an upbeat tone in his reflections on Beijing 2022, pointing to viewing figures of more than two billion and describing the event as "the most appealing sports and entertainment event in the world".

"These Olympic Winter Games faced unprecedented challenges against the backdrop of political tensions and a global pandemic," the IOC President said.

"Despite this, these Games offered the most outstanding conditions for the athletes in an absolutely safe and secure environment.

"The athletes expressed their gratitude by stepping up and amazing the world with their response to all the challenges and adversity.

"They showed all of us the best that humankind can be, if we come together in peace and solidarity."

Bach then turned to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, assisted by Belarus, in the days following the end of the Winter Olympics.

He reiterated the IOC's stance in response to the war, distinguishing between sanctions - including a ban on national symbols of both countries - and protective measures in recommending the non-participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sport.

The German official said that sanctions "must and will remain firmly in place", but again blamed "political pressure and interference" for the introduction of measures against athletes which he claimed were "against our mission to unify the entire world in peaceful competition".

He referenced the UN General Assembly's resolution on "sport as an enabler of sustainable development", as he did after the IOC Executive Board meeting earlier this month, among the "encouraging statements and declarations".

"Such encouraging signs of support give us all the more reason to promote our unifying mission with our full determination - and it gives us hope that it will bring us closer to being able to once again fully live up to the mission of sport to unite the entire world in peaceful competition," Bach said.

"In this spirit, we can look ahead to 2023 with hope and optimism.

"All the support from all walks of life for our peace-mission shows: the power of sport as a force for good in the world is widely acknowledged - and it is needed more than ever.

"Especially in a time when division and conflict is gaining ground over dialogue and cooperation - in a time, when, tragically, it is not people but the guns of war that are doing the talking."

The IOC entertained a proposal at the Olympic Summit to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at Olympic Council of Asia qualifying events earlier this month, which drew criticism from Ukraine including from the country's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Bach pledged his support for Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community in his New Year message, expressing a desire for a "strong team" to feature at Paris 2024 and Milan Cortina 2026.

Thomas Bach used his New Year message to praise the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics saying they were a great success despite being faced with "unprecedented challenges" ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach used his New Year message to praise the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics saying they were a great success despite being faced with "unprecedented challenges" ©Getty Images

Looking to the "pre-Olympic year" of 2023, Bach claimed that the Olympic Qualifier Series for Paris 2024 helped to promote athletes and sports "in new and exciting ways" and the inaugural Olympic Esports Week in Singapore in June would be "the next major step for us to engage even deeper with the young generation".

He promised that Paris 2024 will be "more inclusive, more youthful, more urban, more sustainable - and they will be the very first Olympic Games with full gender parity".

The IOC President concluded by offering best wishes for 2023.

"Our values, our solidarity, our unity, our peace-mission - all this makes our beloved Olympic Movement so unique," Bach said.

"This is the solid foundation on which we can build our future - on which we can build a better and more peaceful world through sport.

"So let us join hands to go faster, aim higher, become stronger - together.

"In this true Olympic spirit, I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful pre-Olympic year 2023."