Targeting China, senators want Olympics to move up human rights timeline

10 senators have written to IOC President Thomas Bach

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is leading an effort to pressure the IOC to speed up implementation of human rights standards . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Looking toward China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, senators from both parties want the International Olympic Committee to speed up the timeline for requirements designed to protect human rights in host countries.

In the letter signed by 10 senators led by Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, the lawmakers express concern about China’s track record to IOC President Thomas Bach.

“Specifically, we hold great concern that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a country plagued with violent suppression of free speech, state-sponsored oppression, and human rights abuses, is set to serve as host to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games without proper guidelines or requirements.,” the senators wrote.

Updates to requirements for host cities are scheduled to take effect for 2024, when Paris is set to host the summer games. 

“Rightfully present in the revised Host City Contract under the Olympic Agenda 2020 is an address of the host city’s respect of human rights,” the senators wrote in Thursday’s letter. “These revised Host City Contract requirements include protection of human rights and labor-related protections, as well as the assurance that all violations of human rights, fraud, or acts of corruption are remedied in accordance with applicable international agreements, laws, and regulations.”

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida,  Josh Hawley of Missouri, Rick Scott of Florida, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Todd Young of Indiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas signed on from the GOP side.

Democrats Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also joined the effort.

The letter cited State Department findings about conditions in China in connection with the 2008 summer games, which were hosted by Beijing, including “forced relocations” and an uptick of surveillance efforts.

It’s the latest example of the Senate paying close attention to the Olympic movement. A separate bipartisan effort is under way to pass legislation that would strengthen congressional powers to respond to abuse by people connected to the U.S. Olympic Committee and various affiliated amateur sports organizations.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.