Portugal: No political enovys at opening, closing of Beijing Winter Olympics

Portugal will not have political representation at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Winter Olympics “for various reasons”, its minister of foreign affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, has said.

His comments came in the wake of the European Parliament’s call last week for a diplomatic and political boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in the face of China’s attempts to “legitimise its authoritarian system”.

“We are also coordinating with the other European [Union] states on this issue, but we will not have political representation at the opening or closing ceremonies,” Santos Silva told journalists in Brussels after taking part in a meeting of EU foreign ministers. He cited “various reasons” – from “the political moment being experienced in Portugal” with a general election scheduled for Sunday, to “the European Union’s own sense of unity” in the current “circumstances” and acknowledged as a factor the fact that the Winter Olympics are not, “from a sporting point of view, the alpha and omega of [Portuguese] sport.”

He confirmed that “coordination is taking place [between the EU’s 27 member states], obviously respecting the interests of each.

“For example, I know that some European [Union] states will be represented at the level of minister of sport given the size of their sports representation,” he went on. “Others will be represented only at ambassador level, and, as is usual in these things, even when the decision is national, we always agree on positions and that is what we are doing.”

As for Portugal’s position, he attributed it to the “sense of unity proper to the EU and also to what is typical of the non-confrontational diplomacy that Portugal practises” – a reference to its good relations with most countries in the world – recalling once again the “political moment that Portugal is experiencing, and will experience in the coming weeks.

“We believe that representation at ministerial or governmental level would not be the appropriate solution,” he concluded.

Several countries, including the UK, US, Canada and Australia, have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, without affecting the participation of athletes from those countries, to denounce alleged human rights violations in China. 

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are to take place from 4 to 20 February.