Peng Shuai: The International Olympic Committee defends its handling of Chinese tennis star contact

Peng Shuai
Source: Skysports

After worries about Peng Shuai safety and well-being, the International Olympic Committee has rejected criticism of how it handled its communication with him.

The former world number one made a sexual assault allegation against a senior government official, then vanished from public view last month, causing the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to halt its lucrative events in China.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, said it would use “quiet diplomacy” on the subject, and revealed on November 21 that its president, Thomas Bach, had held a 30-minute video call with Peng.

The call’s video was never disclosed, and organisations such as the WTA are still concerned for her safety.

The IOC said on December 2 that it had held another video conference with Peng and that a personal meeting will take place in January.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the IOC’s Beijing Games coordination commission, defended the current strategy, saying: “Don’t dismiss silent diplomacy; it can be a very effective tool.

“For topics of that calibre, difficulty, and relevance, we intend to keep to that.”

Samaranch seems to be criticising the politicisation of Peng’s situation.

“Everyone should be focused on Peng Shuai well-being and not attempting to use this for any other reason,” he stated.

When asked how the IOC made touch, Samaranch replied: “We communicate with Chinese sporting organisations on a regular basis. Both the president and the Athletes Commission are in direct contact with Peng.

“In this terrible time in her life, we must be careful and respect her wish for privacy.” We feel we are dealing with a person, and the most essential thing is to assist that person in resolving any problems she may have in the most effective manner possible.

“Our goal is to focus and centre ourselves on the athlete’s well-being, which we are doing totally.”

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