Thursday, March 13, 2008

USOC head Peter Ueberroth believes Olympic Games a positive force

AP Sports Writer

DANA POINT, Calif. — Peter Ueberroth believes a
person-to-person approach can change relationships among countries,
and that the Olympics have and will continue to play a significant

Some human rights advocates have criticized China as it prepares
for this year’s Beijing Olympics.

“Almost any position people take about human rights, they
should have as many ties as possible to China in the long-term,”
Ueberroth, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said
Wednesday. “That has a much more positive effect than trying to have

“But they have to be real ties — ties between athletes, ties
between business, ties between friends and tourists.”

Speaking at the World Congress of Sports, a gathering made up
mostly of sports business executives, Ueberroth urged the 500 or so
in the audience to make friends and contacts in China and predicted
the economy there will continue to grow immensely.

Ueberroth, who headed the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, doesn’t
believe the games should be politicized, and said past boycotts
affected just one group.

“Boycotts do one thing very well and only one thing: they
punish athletes,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow
didn’t affect the Soviet Union’s presence in Afghanistan at the
time. The Soviets responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics
four years later, but Ueberroth and the L.A. committee essentially
revived the Olympic movement with the first “private-enterprise
Olympics” with money from sponsors, and those games even turned a

Ueberroth said the Moscow Olympics still were “terrific games”
and opened the Soviet Union up to the world.

Ueberroth recalled that China was on the list of 100 countries
that were supposed to boycott the 1984 games, but a man working
with the L.A. committee called him from China in the middle of the
night and said, “They’re coming.”

“I feel indebted to China,” Ueberroth said. “They came and
they won their first medal. Now they’re going to be the
host. They’re going to put on great games, open their country up more
than it’s ever been open.”

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