Resolve Tibet issue peacefully, urges IOC
The head of the International Olympic Committee on Monday said he was "very concerned" about unrest in Tibet, but downplayed talk of a boycott of the Beijing Games.
"I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's happening in Tibet," Jacques Rogge said on Monday in Beijing. "The torch relay has been targeted. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet," Rogge said in a brief speech at the meetings' opening ceremony.
China is facing rising criticism ahead of the August Olympics on issues from its crackdown on anti-government protests among Tibetans to its close relations with Sudan.
Demonstrators challenging China's policies in those areas tried to grab the Olympic torch and snuff out the flame as it passed through London on Sunday.
Rogge's comments were his strongest yet on the growing political storm surrounding the Games, underscoring rising concern over the potential that such protests would tarnish the Olympic movement. "Violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games," Rogge said. Rogge acknowledged that "some politicians have played with the idea of boycotts," but added: "As I speak today, however, there is no momentum for a generalized boycott."
"We need the unity of the Olympic movement to help us overcome the difficulties. Our major responsibility is for offering good games to the athletes who deserve them," Rogge said. The athletes deserve and the world expects it, and the unity of the Olympic movement will deliver it," he said.
Rogge was in the Chinese capital to meet with officials from national Olympic committees and members of the IOC, in the last major consultations ahead of the August Games.
Rogge's comments follow similar statements over the weekend by the head of an organization overseeing 205 national Olympic committees.
"Any politician who is pushing for a boycott is committing a serious error," Mario Vazquez Rana, the president the Association of National Olympic Committees, said Saturday in Beijing. "For me a total boycott, a partial boycott, is totally out of the question," he said.
Various foreign politicians have floated the idea of staying away from the Games' opening ceremony. In Saturday editions of Le Monde, one of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Cabinet ministers was quoted as saying China would have to release poltical prisoners and open a dialogue with Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, for Sarkozy to take part in the Aug. 8 ceremony.
The Tibet protests have thrown a spotlight on China's human rights record, prompting protests all along the torch relay, which began last month. China's communist government said 22 have died in violence stemming from protests in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited regions of western China that turned violent on March 14.
Supporters of the Dalai Lama says up to 140 people have died, including eight killed when security forces fired on protesters on Thursday night. China's blames the Dalai Lama's supporters for fomenting the violence and has rejected international calls to open a dialogue to address concerns its policies are harming the region's traditional Buddhist culture.