International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Friday urged world leaders to “give peace a chance” at the outset of the Winter Games in Beijing — an apparent nod to the ongoing security crisis along Ukraine’s borders and Western criticism of China’s human rights abuses.
“In our fragile world — where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise — we show the world, yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together,” Bach said in an address at the games’ opening ceremony, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“In this Olympic spirit of peace,” he added, “I appeal to all political authorities across the world: Observe your commitment to this Olympic truth. Give peace a chance.”
Bach’s remarks come as tensions continue to escalate in Eastern Europe, where Russia has massed roughly 100,000 troops around Ukraine in a military build-up that has sparked concern in Washington and other NATO nations.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered the deployment of roughly 3,000 troops to Poland, Germany and Romania in a show of support to European allies. And on Thursday, the United States warned that Russia could create a pretext for an invasion by distributing a fake video of Ukrainian forces targeting Russian territory or Russian-speakers.
Putin met on Friday with Xi on the sidelines of the Winter Games. Their governments later issued a joint statement expressing opposition to the “further enlargement of NATO” and calling on the military alliance to “abandon its ideologized Cold War approaches.”
Putin is one of Xi’s most high-profile guests in Beijing, as several democratic nations have joined the United States’ diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games, citing China’s persecution of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region and other human rights abuses.