IOC defends handling of contact with Peng Shuai after criticism

The head of the IOC’s co-ordination commission for the Beijing Games, Juan Antonio Samaranch, defends its handling of contact with Peng Shuai; “Everybody should be concentrating on the well-being of Peng Shuai and not trying to use this for another purpose”

Last Updated: 07/12/21 9:06pm

The IOC is keen to deploy “silent diplomacy” in the case of China’s Peng Shuai

The International Olympic Committee has rejected criticism of how it has handled its contact with Peng Shuai after concerns over the Chinese star’s safety and well-being.

The former doubles world No 1 made a sexual assault accusation against a senior official in the country’s government, but then disappeared from public view last month, prompting the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to suspend its lucrative tournaments in China.

Peng spoke to IOC president Thomas Bach (Photograph by IOC/Greg Martin)

The IOC, which is taking the Winter Olympics to Beijing in February, said it would employ “quiet diplomacy” in the matter and on November 21 announced its president, Thomas Bach, had held a 30-minute video call with Peng.

The footage of the call was not released and organisations, including the WTA, remain deeply concerned for her safety.

The IOC announced it had held a further video call with Peng on December 2 and had agreed a personal meeting in January.

The head of the IOC’s co-ordination commission for the Beijing Games, Juan Antonio Samaranch, defended the approach taken to date and said: “Don’t write off silent diplomacy, it’s a very powerful tool.

“We plan to stick to that for issues of that calibre, that difficulty and that importance.”

Samaranch appeared to criticise what he saw as a politicisation of Peng’s situation.

“Everybody should be concentrating on the well-being of Peng Shuai and not trying to use this for another purpose,” he said.

Juan Antonio Samaranch wants to be “discreet” and “respect” Peng’s desire for discretion

Asked about how the IOC had initiated contact, Samaranch said: “We are talking regularly with the sports organisations in China at large. We are in direct contact (with Peng) – both the president and the Athletes Commission.

“We have to be discreet and respect her desire for discretion in this difficult moment of her life. We believe we are dealing with a person and the most important thing is to help a person solve a problem that she might have in the best possible way.

“Our idea is to centre and concentrate ourselves on the well-being of the athlete and we are doing that wholeheartedly.”

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