Olympic officials have been on the defensive for weeks for their relative silence on Peng’s disappearance and her claims of sexual assault, which critics of both the organization and of China have derided as an attempt to avoid even the appearance of criticizing a powerful partner. The 2022 Winter Olympics in China, which will make Beijing the first city to host the Summer and Winter Games, open on Feb. 4.
The I.O.C. has countered that its effort to aid Peng has been a campaign of “quiet diplomacy,” a phrase it repeated in Thursday’s statement and which its representatives have used to defend the organization in news media appearances.
“There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety,” the I.O.C. said. “We have taken a very human and person-centered approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the I.O.C. is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organizations. We are using ‘quiet diplomacy’ which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organizations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.”
Women’s tennis, through the WTA Tour, has taken a far more confrontational approach with China. Its announcement Wednesday that it was suspending all its events in China came after weeks of demands by the tour and its chief executive Steve Simon, for reassurances about Peng’s safety and an investigation into her claims.
The decision to pull its events out of China and Hong Kong could cost the tour hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, but it made the WTA Tour the only major sports organization to push back against China’s increasingly authoritarian government. WTA Tour officials said they made the decision after they were unable to speak directly with Peng after she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, in social media posts that were quickly deleted.
Though the men’s No. 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic, expressed support on Wednesday night for the WTA’s decision, the ATP, which operates the men’s professional tennis tour, has not threatened to withdraw or suspend its events from China. It had four tournaments scheduled in the country in 2021, but all were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Understand the Disappearance of Peng Shuai
Where is Peng Shuai? The Chinese tennis star disappeared from public view for weeks after she accused a top Chinese leader of sexual assault. Recent videos that appear to show Ms. Peng have done little to resolve concerns for her safety.
Last week, the ATP released its schedule for the first half of 2022 but the Chinese events that could be affected, including a Masters 1000 event in Shanghai, would all be in the second half of the season. The WTA Tour’s potential stops were to arrive much sooner, and Simon said the tour had little choice but to call them off.