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Royal family drops Olympics in Beijing

None of the members of Norway’s royal family will be traveling to China next month to attend the Winter Olympics, confirmed palace officials on Tuesday. Their decision comes in the midst of heated debate over whether Norway should join other allies in boycotting the Olympics in Beijing, but the palace cited concern over Corona infection and regulations as the reason for the royal absence.

King Harald and Queen Sonja have regularly attended both summer and winter Olympics over the years, like here in Canada in 2010. They won’t be going to Beijing, though, which is being held despite the ongoing panemic. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“This year the royal family will follow the Winter Olympics (called OL in Norway) and cheer for the Norwegian athletes in front of the TV screen,” wrote the palace in an official statement on Tuesday.

The palace reported that the royal family “will, like large portions of Norway, follow the games with great enthusiasm.” Both the Olympics and Paralympics will unfold without any international spectators in the stands themselves, though, because of infection concerns.

The palace noted that “the extremely strict travel- and infection prevention rules during the Olympics have made a visit to the games difficult to carry out. As a result of this, there won’t be anyone from the royal family present at either the Olympics or the Paralympics at Beijing 2022.”

That means not only King Harald and Queen Sonja will be staying home but also Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Nor will the king’s daughter, Princess Martha Louise, attend the Paralympics that follow the Olympics, even though she’s been an active supporter of them and physically challenged athletes for years.

Culture minister won’t attend the Olympics either
Norway’s government minister in charge of culture and sports, Anette Trettebergstuen of the Labour Party, has also stated she won’t be attending the Olympics but has planned to visit the Paralympics. Members of Parliament from the Liberal Party have asked that all top Norwegian government officials drop the Olympics in Beijing as a sign of Norwegian objections to Chinese officials human rights abuses, media censorship, persecution of minorities and destruction of Hong Kong’s once-thriving freedom and democracy.

The US and Great Britain, both among Norway’s closest allies, along with Canada, Australia and Lithuania have already refused to send any official representatives to Beijing. Human rights organization Amnesty International has asked Norway’s government to stay away as well, as part of a “diplomatic boycott” of China’s Olympics that are widely viewed as part of the so-called “sportswashing” undertaken by authoritarian countries that use international sporting events to boost their image.

John Peder Egenæs, leader of Amnesty in Norway, suggested to newspaper Aftenposten that Norwegian politicians should be as brave as several Norwegian athletes who have questioned and criticized authoritarian regimes. If politicians appear weaker, he said, “it will send a very poor signal about Norwegian politicians’ willingness to stand up for human rights.”

‘Long tradition’ of offical attendance
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, however, claimed there’s a “long tradition for the Norwegian government to be represented at the Olympics and Paralympics as guests of Norway’s athletics federation. It’s natural that major winter sports nation like Norway has its government represented to support our top athletes.”

She also claimed Norway “regularly expresses its concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang (where the minority Uighur population has suffered greatly under Chinese rule).” She added that “we encourage Chinese authorities to respect human rights, stop hindering the freedom of the Uighurs and other minorities, and allow unimpeded access to the region for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.” Norway has also attached itself to the EU’s sanctions against China.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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