UPDATE: China has responded to the Women’s Tennis Association announcement on Wednesday that it is suspending all of its tournaments in that country. The WTA said it was taken the action because of concerns about the treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai.
“We are firmly opposed to acts politicizing sport,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, accusing the WTA of “seriously coercing Peng.”
The International Olympics Committee also issued a statement.
“We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the wellbeing and safety of Peng Shuai” the IOC said in a statement on Thursday. “This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January. There are different ways to achieve her wellbeing and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centered approach to her situation.”
The IOC said it plans to address its “concerns” about Peng with Chinese Sports organizations through “quiet diplomacy.”
EARLIER: Expressing concern for the health and safety of tennis star Peng Shuai, the Women’s Tennis Association announced Wednesday that it is suspending all of its tournaments in China.
Peng has been seen only sporadically in public since she leveled an accusation of sexual assault against a senior party official. The WTA has invested heavily in Chinese women’s tennis, so the decision to pull out will cost the organization hundreds of millions, according to media estimates.
Moreover, it is yet another black eye on Chinese athletics as the country preps for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February. Several countries, including the US, are considering whether they should participate in the games. The murky Peng situation could prove critical in their final determination.
In a statement, WTA CEO Steve Simon explained the decision to immediately suspend tournaments in China.