Omega Shrugs Off Olympic Boycott Controversy, U.S. Sponsors Lie Low

Omega, an official sponsor of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, shrugged off the U.S.'s diplomatic boycott of the games, saying they will continue "to serve the world's best athletes as they compete on the global stage," while other Olympic sponsors based in the U.S. have stayed silent on the controversy.

Omega, the Swiss-based watch-making company told Newsweek that, "Our role at this event is Official Timekeeper, a vital position we have proudly fulfilled at the Olympic Games since 1932. We will therefore be there once again to serve the world's best athletes as they compete on the global stage."

The statement continued, "Our brand has absolutely no influence on decisions made by individuals or states in regards to attendance and we suggest that responses related to this matter should be directed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)."

Earlier this week, the White House announced that they would be staging a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, citing China's treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs in the country's Xinjiang province.

"The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC's [People's Republic of China's] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Monday.

According to Psaki, the diplomatic boycott does not apply to Team USA's athletes competing in the games, saying that "We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home."

In addition to the U.S., several other countries including Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Lithuania, Canada and the U.K. have also announced diplomatic boycotts of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Newsweek reached out to several other U.S.-based Olympic sponsors including Intel, Coca-Cola, Visa, Procter & Gamble (P&G), AirBnB and Bridgestone for comment on the diplomatic boycott. Coca-Cola and Intel both declined to comment. Newsweek did not receive a response from the other U.S.-based sponsors in time for publication.

The France-based information technology company, Atos, which is another Olympic sponsor, told Newsweek that "as Worldwide IT Partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Atos is proud of the role we play in delivering digital technology to ensure successful Olympic and Paralympic Games for athletes and spectators across the world."

"As such we enable the digital Olympic Games wherever they take place, notwithstanding other considerations," the statement added.

A spokesperson for Atos also directed Newsweek to the recent statement issued by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) statement in response to the U.S.'s diplomatic boycott.

"The presence of government officials and diplomats is a purely political decision for each government, which the IOC in its political neutrality fully respects. At the same time, this announcement also makes clear that the Olympic Games and the participation of the athletes are beyond politics, and we welcome this," the IOC's statement said in part.

Newsweek also reached out to Panasonic, Alibaba Group, Allianz, Samsung and Toyota - all of which are listed as Olympic Partners on the IOC website - for comment but did not receive a response from any in time for publication.

In November, Human Rights Watch reached out to each of the IOC's official partners about their involvement in the 2022 Games in Beijing but only received a response from Allianz, a financial service company based in Germany.

"We stand behind the Olympic movement and our longstanding support for its ideals will not waver," a spokesperson for Allianz told Human Rights Watch in November.

While the U.S. has been critical of China's treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs, the Asian nation has repeatedly denied all claims of abuse and genocide.

Following the announcement of the diplomatic boycott, the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Senator Jeff Merkley and Cochair Rep. James P. McGovern, issued a statement calling on Olympic sponsors to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

"We commend the Biden Administration for announcing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. U.S. allies and partners should make similar announcements in the coming weeks as the international community cannot condone with their presence an Olympic Games tarnished by genocide and some of the world's most egregious human rights abuses. Nevertheless, we continue to argue that a diplomatic boycott is not enough," the statement said. "At the very least, the American corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should also refuse to send senior executives to the Games in Beijing."

China has also recently faced additional criticism following the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after she accused the country's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Peng reappeared in public on November 21 during a video call with IOC President Thomas Bach.

Olympics
U.S.-based Olympic sponsors have continued to lie low in response to the nation's diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Above, a visitor poses with the logos for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics at Shougang, a former power plant which now also houses the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, on December 7, 2021 in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty