An IOC spokesperson told the AFP that the governing body has “kept in touch with (Peng)” and had spoken to her as recently as “just the past week.” Peng reportedly told the IOC she was looking forward to the games and to meeting IOC President Thomas Bach and chair of the IOC athletes’ commission Emma Terho during the games.
The visit follows renewed controversy around Peng after fans at the Australian Open wore shirts that read “Where is Peng Shuai?” A video surfaced of tournament security demanding spectators remove the shirts and a banner in support of peng.
Tournament chief Craig Tiley said Tuesday that fans could wear the shirts as long as they did so peacefully.
Peng, 35, made limited public appearances after posting on Chinese social media a lengthy accusation of sexual assault. The post disappeared from her account, and she also disappeared from public for two weeks.
The IOC faced criticism for remaining largely quiet while U.S. tennis officials took a strong stance against Beijing: WTA CEO Steve Simon suspended all WTA tournaments in China, while the IOC engaged in what it called “quiet diplomacy” with the 2022 Olympics host nation.
But the IOC appeared to score a victory when it announced that it held a video call with Peng on Nov. 21, marking the first visual contact between Peng and any foreign entity since her initial allegations and disappearance.
The IOC only released a photo of the call and some remarks on what participants discussed: Peng said she was “safe and well” in her home in Beijing, and Bach invited her to dine with him during his visit this month.
The WTA stressed the need for Peng to speak “without censorship or coercion” and highlighted that Beijing had not addressed the organization’s call for “a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship” into Peng’s allegation of sexual assault.
China only made one direct comment on the matter when Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused “some people” of “deliberately and maliciously hyping [the issue] up” and suggested they no longer “politicize” an issue that Beijing saw as “not a diplomatic matter.”
And Peng withdrew her accusation in an “exclusive” interview with Singaporean outlet Lianhe Zaobao in December, saying she had “never said or written that anyone sexually assaulted” her.
She now calls the post a “private matter” and that people “have many misunderstandings” about it. She did not elaborate.
Bach arrived in Beijing and met with President Xi Jinping earlier this week.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.