Winter Olympics: Which world leaders are attending Beijing 2022?

A diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics has reduced the number of world leaders attending the Games.

The National Stadium and the Beijing Olympic Tower are lit in red
The National Stadium and the Beijing Olympic Tower are lit in red on the eve of the Chinese New Year ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics [Jae C. Hong/AP Photo]

A diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics over human rights violations in China and concerns about COVID-19 have reduced the number of world leaders and foreign dignitaries attending the games.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping was due to meet more than 20 leaders as Beijing officially kicks off the event on Friday.

A look at who is attending, who is staying away and why:

Countries whose leaders are attending

Russia: President Vladimir Putin is meeting Xi before the opening ceremony, underscoring their close ties as they both face deteriorating relations with the United States.

Egypt and Serbia: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Serbia’s Aleksandar Vucic have gravitated towards China amid growing frictions with the West.

Olympics - Winter 2022 - an overview with the top winning countries from the previous games
(Al Jazeera)

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE: China is Saudi Arabia’s largest buyer of oil and a significant customer of Qatar’s natural gas.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, is appearing at the Winter Games as investors and some governments signal warming relations after the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan: The leaders of all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia are heading to Beijing, highlighting the region’s increasingly close ties with China.

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov pushed last month for the revival of a long-delayed project to build a railway from China through his country to Uzbekistan. China is Turkmenistan’s only reliable key buyer of natural gas.

Argentina and Ecuador: Argentina is set to become the first major Latin American country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In Beijing, President Alberto Fernandez is also expected to discuss China’s help building Argentina’s first nuclear power plant since 1981.

Meanwhile, President Guillermo Lasso is seeking to renegotiate Ecuador’s $4.6bn debt with China.

United Nations: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will attend the opening ceremony.

The International Olympic Committee is a close partner of the UN, Guterres said, and the Olympics brings together people with a message of solidarity and peace.

Winter Olympics schedule in Feb 2022
(Al Jazeera)

Countries that are boycotting 

The US announced a diplomatic boycott while allowing its athletes to compete. Major US allies followed, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Kosovo and Lithuania, whose relations with China have nosedived over their ties with Taiwan, are also boycotting the games diplomatically.

India said it would not send any officials following reports that a Chinese military commander who was involved in deadly clashes with Indian border forces in 2020 had been chosen as one of the Olympic torchbearers in Beijing.

Non-boycotters, but not attending

The royals in Norway and Sweden, who normally attend the Winter Olympics, are not going.

Neither are any leaders from Germany, Austria or Switzerland, all big winter sports nations.

Officially they are citing the coronavirus pandemic, rather than any diplomatic protest. Others, such as Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand have cited COVID-19 restrictions while also expressing concern over China’s human rights situation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies