Thursday, February 14, 2008

China blames activists for linking Olympics to Sudan

BEIJING (AP) China is blaming activists with “ulterior
motives” for linking the Beijing Olympics to the nation’s
involvement in Sudan, with top officials saying they shared
concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Games organizers and the Foreign Ministry responded Thursday to
Steven Spielberg rejecting a role as an artistic adviser to the

The film director withdrew on Tuesday on the grounds that China
wasn’t doing enough to pressure Sudan over the conflict in its
western region of Darfur.

China is believed to have influence over the Islamic regime
because it buys two-thirds of the country’s oil exports while
selling it weapons and defending it in the United Nations.

In their first response to Spielberg’s announcement, Games
organizers said his decision would not affect planning for the
opening and closing ceremonies, adding: “We express our regret
over his recent personal statement.”

“The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve
the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community
which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue,” the organizers,
known as BOCOG, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated

“Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to
resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic Spirit that
separates sports from politics,” BOCOG said.

China is on the defensive against critics using the Games to
spotlight the communist regime’s curbs on human rights, press
freedoms, and religion.

“It is understandable if some people do not understand the
Chinese government policy on Darfur,” Foreign Ministry spokesman
Liu Jianchao said. “But I am afraid that some people may have
ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept.”

Liu said China was working with the United Nations to resolve
the Darfur crisis.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union wants athletes to
resist raising human rights and other sensitive political issues
during the Beijing Olympics.

“Sports is too important. It is too important to use it as a
political instrument,” Milan Zver, the sports minister of
Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency, said Thursday.

The British Olympic Association initially said this week it
would contractually require its athletes to not make any
politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the games,
although it later changed tack.

Other national games committees have also warned athletes not to
speak out at Olympic sites.

Under IOC rules, athletes cannot discuss political issues within
Olympic zones, but should have freedom of speech outside them. Zver
said that even though he understood the importance of human rights,
the Beijing Games should be spared the controversy.

“The Olympics is not a good place for that,” Zver said in an
interview with The Associated Press. “We, the politicians, have to
do that,” Zver said.

Zver believes multinational companies that trade and invest in
China have more of an obligation to speak up rather than athletes.

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