There have been six different cases of multiple countries boycotting an Olympics over the years, but all took place at the Summer Games between 1956 and 1986. We’ve never seen multiple countries boycotting a Winter Olympics, but comments from U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price Tuesday indicate there may be some talks between the U.S. and its allies about a potential boycott ahead of the 2022 Beijing Olympics (set to be held next February) in protest of Chinese treatment of ethnic minorities (particularly the Uyghurs) in Xinjiang. Here’s more on that from Amanda Macias of CNBC:
The United States and its allies are considering a joint boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the State Department said Tuesday.
“It [a joint boycott] is something that we certainly wish to discuss,” State spokesman Ned Price told reporters when asked about the Biden administration’s plans ahead of the international games.
“A coordinated approach will not only be in our interest but also in the interest of our allies and partners,” he added.
Price said that the United States has not yet made a decision.
This is very early still, and these comments are very limited (Price is only saying a boycott is something they’ll “discuss” with allies), and they may not lead to anything. There have been many calls for Olympic boycotts in the past that didn’t wind up producing actual boycotts, including with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. But it’s still certainly notable to hear a State Department spokesman say publicly that they’re planning to have discussions with allies about a boycott; any boycott would have a lot of implications for U.S. Olympic athletes, and for U.S. Olympic broadcaster NBC (which is paying $7.75 billion for rights to the 2022-32 Olympics, and which even worked out a Super Bowl trade with CBS in hopes of pairing the Super Bowl and the Olympics next February).
The most prominent Olympic boycotts to date came at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, where 66 countries (including the U.S.) wound up not attending, with most of those saying they declined in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles then saw a return boycott from the Soviet bloc, with 18 countries opting out. The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal saw 29 countries, mostly from Africa, boycott after the IOC refused to ban the New Zealand rugby team, who had previously violated the UN call for a sporting embargo on apartheid South Africa.
The other boycotts included eight countries skipping the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne in protest of the IOC not banning the USSR after their invasion of Hungary, China, North Korea and Indonesia declining to go to the 1964 Summer Olympics in Japan over protest of an IOC decision banning athletes who had taken part in the Indonesian counter “Games Of The New Emerging Forces” in 1963, and North Korea and Cuba boycotting the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul over North Korea not being given a role in hosting those Games. We’ll see if 2022 eventually joins that list.