IOC pleads for non-political Beijing Olympics

April 3rd, 2008 - 6:03 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, April 3 (DPA) The International Olympic Committee’s coordinator for the 2008 Olympics Thursday made an impassioned plea for political issues to be kept out of the August games, after facing a barrage of questions on Tibet and human rights. “The games are being drawn into issues that do not necessarily have a link with the operation of the games,” Hein Verbruggen, head of the IOC’s coordination commission for the 2008 games, told reporters after his group’s final inspection of Beijing’s preparations.

Verbruggen said some politicians who linked the Olympics to political and human rights issues were making “cheap use of the sport, and signing at the same time all sorts of economic contracts”.

“Let’s leave it up to the athletes instead of politicians,” he said when asked about the possibility of some Western politicians boycotting the opening of the games.

Verbruggen reiterated the IOC’s position that athletes must respect the Olympic charter and that the games were “not a place for political gestures”.

“I am a very stout defender of the position that the IOC has taken,” he said.

“We do not want to be involved in internal politics in a country.”

Wang Wei, vice-president of the Beijing organizers (BOCOG), defended China’s human rights record over the past 60 years and said its people “now enjoy great freedom of speech”.

“The Olympic Games brings an opportunity for China to open up and develop, and that includes human rights,” Wang said at a joint press conference with Verbruggen.

Wang and Verburggen were both asked about Chinese dissident Hu Jia, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for subversion Thursday.

“I think he was arrested because of violations of the law,” Wang replied. “We have to abide by the law,” he said.

“It’s a matter of Chinese law, it’s not a matter for the IOC,” Verbruggen said.

Verbruggen said he was “very satisfied” with China’s assurances this week on air quality, internet access for journalists, live broadcasts and “other areas where some concerns existed”.

The organizers remained “on the right track” and the games “deserve to be a success,” he said.

The IOC team led by Verburggen toured the main Olympic venues and he said they were “truly iconic”.

“BOCOG is progressing well with all of its operations and we are confident that our Chinese friends will put on great games for the athletes of the world,” he said.

Apart from human rights abuses and lack of democracy, activists have also criticized China for its handling of Tibetan independence protests and its support to the Sudanese government, which is blamed for serious abuses in the Darfur region.

Tibetan activists disrupted the traditional ceremony to light the flame last week in Olympia, Greece, and are expected to stage protests during several legs of the international torch relay, which began in Kazakhstan Wednesday.

Protesters are angry at China’s crushing of unrest in Tibet earlier this month and its plans to take the torch through Tibet and to the top of Mount Everest.

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