Monday, March 17, 2008

Excellent: Swimmers speaking and wishing for further education: Schoeman wants Oly Comm. to speak on human rights - Monday March 17, 2008 11:30AM - More Sports - Schoeman wants Oly Comm. to speak on human rights - Monday March 17, 2008 11:30AM: "He said Dutch swimming star Pieter van den Hoogenband 'made a valid point' when he called on the IOC to make a statement to China about human rights on behalf of all athletes.

But Schoeman said he was not ready to make a decision about possibly skipping the games to protest China's rights record.

'That's something I'm going to have to educate myself further on. I'm a firm believer in human rights, always have been, always will be,' he said. 'It is something I have to educate myself in before I can make a rational decision on it.'

Schoeman said Olympic organizers should have acted earlier -- when China was awarded the games in 2001 -- to discuss human rights.
We all need to stay or become more aware.

Doing too little and too late isn't helpful either.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

IOC refuses to speak about Tibet
Posted: Monday March 17, 2008 2:40PM; Updated: Monday March 17, 2008 2:43PM
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• EU, Olympic officials oppose Tibetan boycott


LONDON (AP) -- When it awarded the Olympics to Beijing seven years ago, the IOC knew the world would watch closely to see whether China would improve its policies on human rights, religious freedom and Tibet.

Now, with less than five months until the opening ceremony, those combustible issues have shot to the forefront of public consciousness and put the International Olympic Committee on the defensive.

The violence in Tibet in recent days has galvanized attention on the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, invoked debate over the merits of a boycott and raised questions about the IOC's role -- or lack of it -- in influencing Chinese organizers.

The Olympic committee's basic position, as stated repeatedly by IOC president Jacques Rogge and other officials, is that the IOC is a sports organization and is not in a position to pressure China or any other countries on political matters.

"We don't have a political mandate," IOC vice president Thomas Bach of Germany told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We cannot resolve the problems which the United Nations were not able to solve for years."

IOC executive board member and marketing chief Gerhard Heiberg said the committee can't lecture China but does raise human rights and other issues in its regular, private contacts with the Chinese.

"We still maintain that the Olympics are mainly a sports event and we do not want to get involved in a sovereign state's domestic and foreign policy," the Norwegian said in an interview. "Formally we keep out of this, but of course, behind the scenes there can be silent diplomacy, trying to explain how things could hurt the success of the games. This is also important."

The protests in Tibet, the fiercest against Chinese rule in the region in almost two decades, and ensuing crackdown have left at least 16 dead. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has said that Tibetans are facing "cultural genocide."

"We are very concerned," Rogge told reporters Sunday during a one-day visit to St. Lucia. "The IOC hopes that there can be an appeasement as soon as possible to this situation, and I also want to offer our condolences to the relatives of the people who lost their lives."

Still, the IOC has come under pressure from some athletes and Olympic officials to take a stronger stand with the Chinese.

Even before the Tibetan protests, three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands called on Rogge to speak out on behalf of all athletes urging China to improve its human rights situation. On Monday, world 50-meter butterfly champion Roland Schoeman of South Africa said the IOC "should stand up and say, 'The way these people (Tibetans) are being treated is not acceptable."'

Luciano Barra, a longtime Italian Olympic official who was deputy CEO of the 2006 Turin Winter Games, also believes the IOC should prepared to do and say more in view of the Tibetan situation.

"For a question of credibility, the public opinion will say, `You are just thinking about the games, not thinking about millions of people and freedom," he said.

For some veteran Olympic watchers, the violent demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet come as no surprise and are something the IOC can't be expected to resolve.

"In for a penny, in for a pound," John MacAloon, a University of Chicago professor and Olympic historian, said in an interview. "This is what people anticipated when giving the games to Beijing. The Tibetan issue is always there. This was clearly going to be part of the last six months of the run-up to the games."

"The IOC has got to ride it through," he said. "The IOC is doing whatever they can. The IOC does not have an army."

The IOC can take heart that, so far, governments and Olympic committees have come out against any boycott. The consensus is that a boycott would only hurt the athletes, as shown by the political boycotts of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympics. The Dalai Lama has also said a boycott is not the answer.

"The role of the games is building bridges but not walls," Bach said.

The IOC's formal ties with the Chinese are through the host city contract, signed shortly after Beijing got the games in 2001. The contract regulates sports, financial and other organizational matters.

"We have to be concerned with the issues we can deal with," Bach said. "These are, for instance, the issue of free reporting during the games and environmental programs. They are part of the Chinese commitment to the IOC and the Chinese have delivered."

IOC officials contend that the Olympics have already acted as a catalyst for change in China and that the lasting effects will be seen in the years to come, in much the same way as the 1988 Seoul Olympics helped transform South Korea.

"We still feel it was the right thing to award the games to China," Heiberg said. "We feel China is moving in the right direction. You could not expect the IOC or the games to change China completely. We are not naive. We see there are challenges. We knew there would be challenges. But basically this was the right decision."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press