Beijing Games are like IOC's reward to China for bad behaviour: Rippon

Feb 4 (Reuters) - The selection of Beijing as the 2022 Winter Games host is like the International Olympic Committee rewarding China for bad behaviour on human rights, former U.S. champion figure skater Adam Rippon said.

Rights groups have long criticised the IOC for awarding the Feb. 4-20 Games to China, citing its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the western Xinjiang region, which the United States has deemed genocide.

China has consistently denied allegations of human rights abuses and said it opposes the "politicisation" of sports.

Rippon, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and is coaching American Mariah Bell at Beijing, said the IOC needed to "step up" on human rights and exercise more discretion when choosing hosts.

"I think the Chinese are going to put on an amazing Games and I think they are going to make sure everyone is as safe as possible but when it comes to human rights, we're entering a Communist country," Rippon told Reuters by phone.

"And I think that when we're picking Olympic cities this needs to be something that is more regulated by the IOC. This is a position that they've put a lot of people in.

"It makes me think of being rewarded for bad behaviour.

"Always the hope is that (the Olympics) helps better the hosting nation as well, but I do agree that in light of all of the human rights violations in China, it does make you question why were they still allowed to host these Games?"

Rippon, the United States' first openly gay athlete to win a winter Olympics medal, said "all" athletes were concerned about human rights and the IOC had put them in an awkward position.

"Every athlete thinks that what is happening isn't right," the 32-year-old added.

"Of course they feel that way. But as an athlete you train your entire life to go to an Olympic Games and you dream of going to an Olympics.

"You know what year it's going to be but you have no idea what city it will be in.

"I think it's the responsibility of the IOC to make sure that they award countries Olympic Games that can be a safe place for athletes to go and aren't giving (athletes) crisis like this."

British freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy also urged the IOC not to allow countries with "appalling human rights stances" to host Olympics and questioned China's suitability to stage the 2022 Games in an interview with the BBC. read more

Rippon said he hoped the Beijing Games would put the spotlight on human rights in China and pressure the country to address concerns.

"When there is an Olympic Games it does highlight some of these issues ... You hope because of these human rights violations coming forth and all eyes being on China, it puts a lot of pressure on them to address this issue," he said.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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