The Olympic Games are a venue for nations to come together in the name of sports, peace, friendship and community. United States President Joe Biden ’s decision that his country’s officials will boycott the Beijing Winter Games in February over alleged human rights abuses is contrary to that spirit. It is a symbolic rather than meaningful gesture; American athletes are not affected and he and his nation will still be able to bask in the glory of medals won. With such bans having no meaning, the gesture is about political grandstanding. Biden’s efforts to curtail China’s development and rise have already extended to many facets of the relationship. There had been suggestions for months of some form of official protest and Monday’s announcement by the White House of a diplomatic boycott was unsurprising. Australia, a long-standing American ally, is the first country to follow suit. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organises and oversees the Games, is understandably keeping clear of the controversy, the action being against all that the Olympic movement represents. Politics should have no place in sports, but it has repeatedly been used by governments, competitors and spectators to push agendas on and off the field. The last time the US refused to participate in an Olympics was its leading of a 42-country full boycott of the Moscow Summer Games in 1980 to object to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the previous year, an effort that failed to attain its goal. What does US boycott of Winter Olympics mean, and will it achieve anything? That prompted the retaliatory refusal by the Soviets and 18 other nations to take part in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Further proving the point that such bans do not work, there was no impact when Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland did not participate in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Games after the invasion of Hungary by Warsaw Pact troops. Boycotts by politicians of sporting events are about putting the spotlight on themselves for the sake of self-interest. They should instead be stepping aside and letting athletes shine. The athletes chosen to represent their nations at the Olympics have put countless hours into training and preparation. Their stage is for competition, camaraderie and friendship; there is no place for political meddling.