Australia will not send officials to the upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday, joining a US diplomatic boycott of the event.
Canberra’s decision comes amid “disagreement” with China over a slew of issues, from Australia’s foreign interference laws to a recent decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, Morrison said.
He also cited human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s ongoing freeze on ministerial contact with Canberra.
“Australia will not step back from the strong position we’ve had standing up for Australia’s interests, and obviously it is of no surprise that we wouldn’t be sending Australian officials to those Games,” he said.
The decision, which stopped short of preventing athletes from attending the 2022 Olympics, comes a day after the United States announced its diplomatic boycott.
The US decision was taken over what Washington termed China’s genocide of the Uyghur minority and other human rights abuses.
Australia’s ties with China have been in freefall in recent years, with Beijing introducing a raft of punitive sanctions on Australian goods in a fierce political dispute that has plunged relations into the most serious crisis since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
China has been angered at Australia’s willingness to legislate against overseas influence operations, to bar Huawei from 5G contracts and to call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
– ‘Great sporting nation’ –
A raft of Australian goods – including barley, coal, cotton, timber, rock lobsters, wine, beef, grain and dairy products – have all been subject to sanctions from its largest trading partner.
Australia’s recent move to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines under a new defence pact with Britain and the United States widely seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region further infuriated Beijing.
At least two Australians are currently being detained in China, with journalist Cheng Lei held for more than a year and academic Yang Jun on trial for espionage.
Morrison said Canberra officials had “always been open” to talks with Beijing, but those attempts had been rebuffed.
“There’s been no obstacle to that occurring on our side, but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues,” he said.
“Australia’s a great sporting nation and I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues. They’re issues between two governments. And I would like to see those issues resolved.”
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it respected the government’s decision, adding it would not impact the Australian team’s preparations.
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“The AOC is very focused on ensuring that team members are able to safely travel to China given the complexity of the Covid environment, with our athletes departing from overseas locations,” chief executive Matt Carroll said.
“Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge.
“Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed.”
About 40 Australian athletes are expected to compete in the Beijing Games, which open on February 4.
I’m in Denmark to improve myself, says youthful Mukairu
Nigerian striker, Paul Mukairu, has expressed his excitement after his ₦900million move to former champions .of Denmark FC Copenhagen.
The 22-year-old winger dumped Turkish side Antalyaspor after three years with the former Turkish champions.
Mukairu has seen his reputation rise tremendously since he joined Antalyaspor in 2019. Within four months of his arrival in Turkey, he made it to the Antalyaspor first team, scoring three goals and assisting one in his first season.
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He spent last season on loan at Belgian Jupiler League side Anderlecht, where he scored two goals and assisted four in 23 league appearances.
Before his departure to Copenhagen, Mukairu had already scored three goals in 20 appearances for the Scorpions this season.
The Abuja-born forward is a quick player, and although he is a winger, he can play as a striker.
The pacy forward was all smiles at his unveiling and expressed his happiness whilst stating his readiness to become better at his new club.
“I feel very happy to be here, the welcome was really nice, it was amazing. I’m so happy to be in this great club.” He told Copenhagen TV.
“I have a lot to learn, and here is a good place to improve myself with the people surrounding me”, he added.
The 22-year-old is yet to make an appearance for the Super Eagles, but if he can continue with his eye-catching displays at his new side, it would only be a matter of time before it happens.
Arsenal gave me a ‘good slap’, says Saliba
William Saliba has revealed how he was given a rude awakening on his arrival at Arsenal back in July 2019.
The French defender joined the Gunners from Saint-Etienne for around £27million.
But he is yet to play for the senior side and last summer was shipped off to Marseille on loan.
Now the 20-year-old has admitted his time in the reserves was like a ‘slap in the face’ and hasn’t ruled out a permanent move away from the Emirates.
He told RMC: “Before going to Arsenal, I said to myself I was going to play, I was sure, I was wondering who I would play alongside.
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“I arrive, I play zero matches. I played for the U23s. That gave me a good slap.
“Things go so fast in football. I don’t want to think about the future. I am going to give my all. Then there will be discussions in summer.”
Reports earlier this month suggested Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was preparing to give Saliba a chance in the senior squad next season.
The centre-back has turned in a string of impressive performances to propel Marseille to third in the Ligue 1 table.
According to L’Equipe, Arsenal are set to reject l‘OM’s attempts to make the deal permanent in the summer.
On his progress, Arteta said earlier this season: “I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan.
“But a lot of things have happened to him, he’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough.”
Senegal bench on Mane recovery watch ahead E/Guinea clash
The Senegal technical bench are still monitoring captain Sadio Mane’s recovery ahead of Sunday’s AFCON 2021 quarterfinal date against Equatorial Guinea in Yaoundé.
Mane was taken off in the 70th minute of Senegal’s 2-0 victory over Cape Verde of their last 16 meeting on January 25 with a suspected concussion after earlier colliding with opposition goalkeeper Vozniha who was sent-off in the 56th minute following a second booking for dangerous play.
Senegal national team technical director Mayacine Mar told Sud Quotiden that the bench was observing both Mane and Bamba Dieng who sustained a knock in training.
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“Bamba had a little knock but it’s not bad. The doctors preferred to keep him in treatment. Sadio too, but he is doing very well. He feels no pain. He will be operational for the quarter-finals. Maybe tomorrow he will resume training,” Mar said.
Mane is Senegal’s leading scorer at AFCON 2021 on two goals after scoring his second of the tournament with Senegal’s first goal in the victory over Cape Verde.
Senegal are chasing a second successive AFCON final appearance after finishing second in 2019.
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