Peng reiterated that she “looks forward” to meeting IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Athletes Committee Chair Emma Terho during the Games, according to an official statement
Archive image of IOC President Thomas Bach. AP
Beijing: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Thursday it has again spoken with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and plans to meet her during next month’s Winter Games in Beijing.
Peng, a former world number one in doubles, has been the subject of global concern since she alleged in November that she was “forced” into sex by former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli during an on-again-off-again relationship.
Beijing censors quickly brushed off the accusation from China’s tightly controlled internet, and the 36-year-old was not seen in public for nearly three weeks.
Zhang has not commented on the allegations, while Peng has since made brief appearances widely touted by Chinese state media reporters as proof of her freedom and well-being.
In a short video call with a Singaporean newspaper, she said she had never claimed that anyone had sexually assaulted her.
An IOC spokesperson said in a statement to AFP that the Olympic body “has been in touch with (Peng) and had a number of conversations with her” since an initial phone call in November, with the most recent communication “only in the past week”.
Peng told the IOC that she “looks forward to the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and plans to closely follow the competitions and her fellow Chinese Olympians,” the statement said.
She reiterated that she “looks forward” to meeting IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Athletes Committee Chair Emma Terho during the Games, the statement said.
Bach spoke to Peng via video call last November, with the IOC releasing a statement saying the tennis star was “safe and sound”.
That led to accusations that Bach acted to protect the Olympic hosts.
Bach is currently in Beijing and met President Xi Jinping earlier this week.
International fears that Peng may not be free have persisted despite her public return, with some fans at the Australian Open recently donning T-shirts with the slogan “Where’s Peng Shuai?”
The tournament sparked a backlash last weekend when video surfaced of security personnel ordering spectators to remove the shirts and a banner in support of Peng — prompting tennis legend Martina Navratilova to label the move “pathetic”.
On Tuesday, tournament chief Craig Tiley said fans may wear the T-shirts as long as they do so peacefully.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) suspended its tournaments in China after accusations by Peng that they were not yet convinced she was free to speak out.
China has not responded directly to Peng’s initial social media post, but has said it opposes the “politicization of sports”.
Beijing will host the Olympic Games from February 4 to 20.
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