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‘Openly British’ Kenworthy signs off with IOC criticism over human rights | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022

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Gate flags bend in the wind after high winds.

The British freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, said on Saturday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should take a host nation’s stance on human rights issues into consideration when awarding the Games.

Rights groups have long criticised the IOC’s choice of Beijing as 2022 host, and several countries including the United States and Britain mounted diplomatic boycotts to protest China’s treatment of its minority Muslim Uyghur population, which the United States deems to be genocide. China denies allegations of human rights abuses.

“I am absolutely a fan of Olympics. I also think, that being said, because it’s the world stage and everyone is watching, there is an opportunity to create positive change and the IOC could help dictate that change by pushing on certain issues,” Kenworthy said after coming eighth in the men’s freeski halfpipe final on Saturday. “Those issues are human rights issues.”

The British-born Kenworthy, who won silver for the United States in slopestyle in Sochi in 2014 and is now competing for Britain, said China had put on an impressive Games, given the pandemic, but stressed that the Olympics had the ability to bring about positive change. “When there’s human rights and the country’s stance on LGBT, those issues should be taken into consideration by the IOC,” he said.

After finishing, Kenworthy lifted his jacket to reveal a logo written across his grey shirt: “Openly British.” It was his farewell to the Olympics.

“This sport and the Olympics and competing on a professional level has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined,” he added. “I’m gay. I felt like I didn’t fit in, in sport. To be out and proud, competing at the Olympics, and all of the opportunities that have come my way since the Olympics, I couldn’t be more thankful. I know there’s an expiration date and I’m at that date.”

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Meanwhile, organisers scrambled to reorganise the Alpine mixed team parallel race for the final day of the Games after high winds forced the competition to be postponed. Team officials and organisers agreed to hold the event, which is only its second edition, on Sunday at 9am (1am GMT) despite several teams being scheduled to fly home.

The decision is likely to mean some teams have to rearrange their flights and accommodation bookings but it was not immediately clear if all would remain to compete. Alpine team officials will hold their usual pre-race “captains’ meeting” at 5pm when the start list will be agreed upon, and only then will it be clear how many of the 15 teams will remain in the rescheduled event.

Gate flags bend in the wind after high winds.
Gate flags bend in the wind after high winds. Photograph: Robert F Bukaty/AP

Olympics and International Ski Federation officials were keen to avoid the complications that would come with the rare case of an event not being held. The closing ceremony is on Sunday at 8pm (12pm GMT). The weather forecast is for slightly better wind conditions earlier in the day.

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