A video call between the head of the International Olympic Committee and Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, whose nearly three-week disappearance from public view sparked an outcry, was meant to reassure the world that she was safe — but instead has raised more questions.
Concern grew in the last week for the former No. 1-ranked doubles player — who hadn’t been seen since accusing a senior Chinese official of sexual assault on Nov. 2. Tennis stars and fans alike demanded to know #WhereIsPengShuai, and the head of the Women’s Tennis Association threatened to pull lucrative events from China.
On Sunday, the IOC said Peng spoke to its president, Thomas Bach, and other officials in a 30-minute video call from Beijing. According to the organization’s statement, she reassured them that she was well and thanked them for their concern — while asking for privacy.
The IOC posted a photo that shows Bach facing a screen on which Peng appears but did not release video of the call. On the same day, China Open posted videos and photos of her appearance at a youth tennis tournament in Beijing that morning.
The IOC’s short statement, which offered few details and no follow-up on her allegations, seems unlikely to close the door on Peng’s case — and it’s leading to increasing criticism of the sports body, which was already facing calls for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which open on Feb. 4.