Torch protests eroding Olympic spirit: UN advisor

April 9th, 2008 - 2:16 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 9 (DPA) Willi Lemke, a ex-football manager in Germany, is rolling up his sleeves to tackle the growing row over the Beijing Olympics and China’s rights abuses before it devastates the Olympics spirit. As the newly appointed UN special advisor on sport, Lemke told DPA of his plans to travel to China as soon as possible, in order to have a first-hand impression of what is happening.

“My wish is to de-escalate the conflict. If these pictures (of the torch relay) continue to go round the world until August, nobody will be happy about the Olympic games, and that would be devastating,” Lemke said.

Lemke, who has served as a top sports official in Germany, said he would focus on tact to calm the escalating worldwide protests that have followed athletes making the traditional world tour with the Olympic flame.

In France alone, 18 people were arrested for trying to disrupt a runner trying to carry the Olympic flame through Paris.

San Francisco was bracing for the next round of protests on Wednesday, with critics led by South Africa’s rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu and actor Richard Gere. After that, the flame goes to Buenos Aires Friday.

“One should act wisely, quietly and diplomatically and observe how things continue,” said the former manager of Werder Bremen.

He was speaking shortly after his first meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“We are in complete agreement about the values and objectives of sport as regards the UN Charter and the Millenium Goals. Not one millimetre separates us,” Lemke noted.

Lemke stressed that he is against a general boycott of the games.

The German sees his role at the UN as that of a partner in dialogue.

“I will be a lawyer for sport, a mediator between the media, sports federations and the member countries of the United Nations,” Lemke said.

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