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Olympic leaders criticize FIFA as activists target meeting


Olympic leaders aimed their ire at FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Saturday over his push for staging more World Cups, during an International Olympic Committee-hosted meeting that Tibetan students tried to interrupt in a protest against the Beijing Winter Games.

Infantinoโ€™s plan to stage menโ€™s and womenโ€™s World Cups every two years instead of four was previously criticized by the IOC which put it on the agenda for the annual โ€œOlympic Summitโ€ debate of influential sports bodies.

โ€œThe attendees voiced serious concerns over proposals from FIFA for a biennial World Cup and the impact on the worldwide sport event calendar,โ€ the IOC said in a statement.

Before the heated words inside the online meeting that Infantino attended, several activists from the Students for a Free Tibet group tried to get into the IOC headquarters.

Local police were called to help block the activists who continued to sit at the front doors and hold up banners including โ€œBoycott Genocide Gamesโ€ next to the iconic Olympic rings symbol outside the building.

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Pro-Tibet groups are part of a wider alliance of activists fueling opposition to the February 4-20 Beijing Olympics over Chinaโ€™s human rights record, including treatment of its Muslim-minority Uyghur people, democratic rights in Hong Kong and military harassment of Taiwan.

In recent weeks, the IOC and its president Thomas Bach have been more widely criticized for seeming too close to China over the uncertain safety of tennis player Peng Shuai after she made sexual assault allegations against a former senior government official.

Bach chaired the meeting on Saturday to discuss โ€œsubjects of significance for the future of the Olympic movement.โ€ It came two days after Bach said the IOC had no direct consultation with FIFA since the biennial World Cup proposal was formally announced three months ago.

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Under questioning from several delegates, Infantino explained โ€œongoing discussions in FIFA were broader in scope than a biennial World Cup, and that what had been presented so far was only the preliminary results, which are still under discussion.โ€

The IOC has previously said doubling the number of World Cups would affect the calendar of โ€œtennis, cycling, golf, gymnastics, swimming, athletics, Formula One and many others.โ€

It would also potentially put a men’s 2028 World Cup, likely earning FIFA billions of dollars in commercial income, almost directly against the Los Angeles Olympics which open on July 21, 2028.

Momentum for FIFAโ€™s preferred plan has stalled in recent weeks meeting resistance across European soccer and in South America.

FIFA will host its own online summit on December 20 from Doha, Qatar, with all 211 national member federations and continental soccer leaders to discuss future tournament options.

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