US athletes Brittany Bowe and John Shuster were the flag bearers for the US contingent of athletes competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The team paraded at the Opening Ceremony after the Biden administration announced in December that it will not send an official US delegation to the Games as a statement against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
US athletes are still be allowed to compete in the Olympics, but the administration will not be sending government officials to the games. The same policy applies for the Paralympic Games, which are also taking place in Beijing.
The White House is looking to send a “clear message” that the human rights abuses in China mean there cannot be “business as usual,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.
The move marks an escalation of pressure by the US on China over allegations of forced labor and human rights abuses in China’s western region of Xinjiang, particularly against the Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minority groups.
The athletes that will make up Team USA have the administration’s “full support,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, but she added the administration would not be “contributing to the fanfare of the games.”
Team USA Chief Rick Adams confirmed a “record number” of 177 US athletes would walk at the Opening Ceremony.