Alysa Liu, father targeted in Chinese spy case

Alysa Liu Arthur
Getty
0 Comments

U.S. Olympic figure skater Alysa Liu and her father Arthur Liu – a former political refugee – were among those targeted in a spying operation that the Justice Department alleges was ordered by the Chinese government, the elder Liu said late Wednesday.

Arthur Liu told The Associated Press he had been contacted by the FBI last October, and warned about the scheme just as his 16-year-old daughter was preparing for the Winter Olympics that took place in Beijing in February. The father said he did not tell his daughter about the issue so as not to scare her or distract her from the competition.

“We believed Alysa had a very good chance of making the Olympic team and truly were very scared,” Arthur Liu said.

The Justice Department earlier Wednesday announced charges against five men accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government for a series of brazen and wide-ranging schemes to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents in the United States.

Arthur Liu said he and his daughter were included in the criminal complaint as “Dissident 3” and “family member,” respectively.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he was “not aware of the specifics” surrounding the allegations, but said China is “firmly opposed to the U.S. slandering by making an issue of this out of thin air.”

“China always asks Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of host countries, and we would never ask our citizens to engage in activities that violate local laws,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing Thursday.

Liu said he took a stand against China’s bullying by allowing his daughter to compete at the Olympics, where she placed seventh.

“This is her moment. This is her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games. I’m not going to let them stop her from going and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure she’s safe and I’m willing to make sacrifices so she can enjoy the moment,” Arthur Liu said. “I’m not going to let them win — to stop me — to silence me from expressing my opinions anywhere.”

The father said he agreed to let his daughter compete with assurances from the State Department and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that Alysa Liu would be closely protected and kept safe while competing in China. They said she would have at least two people escorting her at all times.

“They are probably just trying to intimidate us, to … in a way threaten us not to say anything, to cause trouble to them and say anything political or related to human rights violations in China,” Arthur Liu said. “I had concerns about her safety. The U.S. government did a good job protecting her.”

Arthur Liu said a man called him in November claiming to be an official with the USOPC, and asked for his and his daughters’ passport numbers. Arthur Liu refused to provide them and said he would call his contact at Team USA the next day.

“I didn’t feel good about it. I felt something fishy was going on,” Arthur Liu said. “From my dealings with the U.S. Figure Skating association, they would never call me on the phone to get copies of our passports. I really cut it short once I realized what he was asking for.”

The USOPC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Figure Skating deferred comment to Team USA.

Arthur Liu does not remember being approached in person by Matthew Ziburis, who was arrested Tuesday on charges that include conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification. Ziburis was released on a $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors allege that Ziburis was hired to perform surveillance on the family and pose as a member of an international sports committee to ask Arthur Liu for a copy of his and Alysa Liu’s passports by claiming it was a travel “preparedness check” related to COVID-19. The complaint said when Arthur Liu refused, Ziburis threatened to delay or deny them international travel.

The elder Liu said he left China in his 20s as a political refugee because he had protested the Communist government following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Arthur Liu eventually settled in the Bay Area, put himself through law school and nurtured one of America’s most promising athletes.

His daughter visited their ancestral homeland for the first time while at the Olympics. Arthur Liu said his daughter has generally been warmly embraced by Chinese fans and media, who considered Alysa Liu to be one of their own.

But through the spying investigation, he learned that China was aware of an Instagram message about human rights violations against the ethnic minority Uyghurs that his daughter once posted. During the Games, Alysa Liu also told her father that she was approached by a stranger late one night at a cafeteria after the free skate event, and that the man followed her and asked her to come to his apartment.

“I’ve kind of accepted my life to be like this because of what I chose to do in 1989, to speak up against the government. And I know the Chinese government will extend their long hands into any corner in the world,” Arthur Liu said. “I’m going to continue to enjoy life and live life as I want to live. I’m not going to let this push me down and I’m not going to let them succeed.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

Joel Embiid
Getty
0 Comments

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028
0 Comments

Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!