Team GB are targeting their most successful Winter Olympics – and will support any athlete that then chooses to oppose the International Olympic Committee ban on podium protests.
The team’s bosses confirmed on Thursday that they are eyeing three to seven medals at the Games, which start in Beijing on February 4. If they hit the upper end of their range it would eclipse the record of five hit at the past two Winter Olympics.
The Games will take place amid major opposition against China’s staging of the showpiece event, with a diplomatic boycott imposed by Britain and the US over the human rights abuses in the nation. Huge scrutiny has also been placed on China following the Peng Shuai scandal.
Team GB are targeting their most successful Winter Olympics at the Beijing 2022 Games
With podium protests the subject of a controversial ban by the IOC, it remains to be seen what response would be forthcoming from the Beijing organisers if one materialises, but the British Olympic Association will not block the way of any of their team opt to take a stand.
The BOA chief executive Andy Anson said: ‘We have talked to the IOC about this and they are almost in the same position as we are – they are not entirely sure what the rules and guidelines are. They have been very clear though that they would support athletes’ freedom of expression and I think we all work together on wanting to create the right environment.
Team GB bosses confirmed on Thursday that they are eyeing three to seven medals at the Games, which start in Beijing on February 4
Huge scrutiny has also been placed on China following the Peng Shuai (above) scandal
‘The podium situation is always difficult in that regard because we definitely want our athletes to be respectful of the athletes they are standing on the podium with. (But) we are not going to stifle their freedom of expression. This might be the one opportunity in their life that they have that platform.
‘We support the athletes and will guide them along the way.’
Anson added that athletes have been urged to be ‘sensible’ with their use of social media while in China, and to run any ‘controversial’ plans past the Team GB hierarchy. He said: ‘We’ve told the athletes all along that we’re very happy for them to express themselves but to be sensible and to ideally touch base with those if they feel that they’re doing anything at all controversial.
The British Olympic Association’s chief executive Andy Anson (above) says they will support any athlete that chooses to oppose the IOC’s ban on podium protests
‘We are not the ones who are going to stop our athletes expressing opinions. But equally, we are the ones who are going to give them sensible guidance about local laws and what’s expected locally so that they don’t come up against difficult situations. So it’s a fine balance.’
The prime hope in a British team of 50 will be Charlotte Bankes, who currently leads the snowboard cross World Cup going into this weekend’s final event. ‘We are more competitive across more disciplines than ever before,’ said Kate Baker, the UK Sport director of performance.