COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO) – The 2022 Winter Olympics are underway as we cheer on Team USA, including some athletes training directly in Colorado Springs.

This year, government leaders will not attend the games in person after the United States announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics to protest human rights abuses.

Despite the controversy, former Olympians and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says community support is important. On Saturday morning, the American Olympic and Paralympic Museum plaza will be decorated to cheer on two dozen Winter Olympics athletes who have lived or trained in Olympic City USA.

“We of course encourage the people of our hometown,” Mayor John Suthers said at a news conference Friday morning.

So far, the only other time the United States has boycotted the Olympics was in 1980 in Moscow under President Jimmy Carter. More than 400 athletes did not participate in the games that year.

“I think most people think it was a mistake to boycott the games because of what it did to the athletes, I know a few athletes – including Bill Hanzlick in Denver who was on the basketball team – ball from the United States – who didn’t leave and it was a blow for them,” added Mayor Suthers.

Michelle Dusserre, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist in gymnastics, knows firsthand what a situation like this does to an athlete.

“About half the squad from the 1980 games never had a chance to make it to the games and that’s a lifelong impact, they had spent their whole lives up to that point training for participate in the games and they had that chance taken away,” added Dusserre.

It’s a chance that Team USA athletes will have as they prepare for the biggest stage of their lives.

“I think it was even more important to know that my friends, family, teammates and coaches were there to support me and that I felt the support of the community was just as important, if not more, than the competition. “, said Dusserre.

WinterFest begins Saturday at 11 a.m. at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Plaza. It is a family event and free.

There will be limited free parking available at the event on a first come, first served basis and accessible off West Costilla Street and Sahwatch Street (car park in front of the museum).

For more information on this weekend’s event, click here.