China reminded that Olympics "are not above politics"

Monday, 14 May 2001

Double standards exposed over China's call for Moscow to be denied the Olympics in 1980 on human rights grounds
China in Tibet: A Gold Medal for Oppression

Beijing's controversial bid to host the 2008 Olympics will be examined tomorrow (15 May) at a preliminary meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Board in Lausanne, Switzerland. China is worried that its human rights record in Tibet and China will see it denied the prize of the Olympics for the second time in a decade. Ironically, China itself recognised that sport was not above politics when it criticised the decision to stage the 1980 Games in Moscow following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan; the most recent truly controversial choice by the IOC. China stated then that "The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan flouts the aims of the Olympics". A demonstration by Tibetans and supporters outside the IOC headquarters in Lausanne will seek to remind the IOC that China's bid does run counter to the principles of the Olympics.

China's State News Agency, Xinhua said on 9 February 1980, "The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan flouts the aim of the Olympics and threatens world peace ... just imagine how the sportsmen hailing from various countries and loyal to the ideals of the Olympics would feel if an aggressor like the Soviet Union, whose hands are stained with the blood of the Afghan people is allowed to host the Olympic Games".

Anne Callaghan of Free Tibet Campaign said "China should need little reminding that it is responsible both directly and indirectly for 1.2 million Tibetans dying as a result of the 50 years of its occupation of Tibet. How can the IOC even consider awarding the Games to Beijing?"

On 23 May 2001, China will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 'peaceful liberation' of Tibet; the signing of the 17 Point Agreement between China and Tibet that laid out guarantees for Tibetan autonomy following the Chinese invasion. China successively broke the terms of the agreement, and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet in 1959. Today, repression is a constant feature of Tibetan life and torture is commonplace in prisons. Tibetans are treated as second class citizens in their own country.

The Beijing bid for the 2008 Olympics has continued to come under fire from human rights activists from around the world who point out that it would reward China for a deteriorating human rights situation and continuing occupation of Tibet. The 1980 Xinhua statement claimed that Moscow regarded the decision to allow the Games to go ahead as "convincing evidence of the correctness of the foreign policy course of our [USSR] country". "China too would take a winning Beijing bid as being a rubber stamp for its continuing crackdown on human rights and the desire of Tibetans for independence" said Ms Callaghan.

For more information contact Anne Callaghan; 020 7833 9958, mobile 07796 012533

Notes To Editors:

1. The demonstration outside the IOC/CIO headquarters is from 9am-1pm, Chateau de Vidy, 1007 Lausanne, Switzerland. Contact: Jacques Arnal (La Porte du Tibet), Mobile : (41) 79 436 65 31 Sandrina Cirafici (CSPT Suisse), Mobile : (41) 79 361 87 41 or Adela‚ÄĘde Foster (Etudiants pour un Tibet Libre) : (41) 21 601 95 74

2. Beijing is one of 5 cities bidding for the 2008 Olympics (the others being Istanbul, Osaka, Paris and Toronto). The IOC Executive Committee meets from 15-18 May to discuss amongst other issues the technical reports of the Evaluation Committee on all 5 cities. The final decision on which city will host the 2008 Olympic Games will be made on 13 July 2001 in Moscow. The voting of the final decision will be done by 123 IOC representatives, drawn from around the world and who are independent of governments. The UK has two representatives, HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and Mr Craig Reedie CBE.

3. The full text of the Xinhua News Agency release of 9 February 1980 is below:

Xinhua News Agency, February 9, 1980
As the voices become louder against the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow, the Soviet authorities have time and again declared that "politics should not be mixed with sports", in an attempt to confuse the minds of the people of the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the world. In a statement issued on January 31, the Olympic committee of the USSR said: "loyal to the ideals of the Olympic movement, the Olympic committee of the USSR condemns the attempts to use sport as a means of political pressure." It continued by saying that certain people wanted to "undermine" the Olympic movement and that the "hostile campaign" should be given a "resolute rebuff". The Soviet authorities tried to give people the impression that the Olympic movement had nothing to do with politics and that those opposed to the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow want to undermine the Olympic movement. However, they failed to mention what the ideals of the Olympics really are. They have no courage to state the fact that people decided to boycott the Moscow Olympic Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This is how they separate politics from sports. In their history of 84 years, the Olympic Games were never a sports gathering with emphasis on competition alone. The Olympic charter clearly stipulates the education of young people through sport as its aim, "thereby helping to build a better and more peaceful world" and "to spread the Olympic principles throughout the world thereby creating international goodwill". The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan flouts the aim of the Olympics and threatens world peace sought by the Olympic movement. It is, therefore, quite natural for Muhammad Ali as a champion of peace to voice his indignation. He declared, "if you believe in freedom you are naturally offended when a country like Russia invades a free country." Just imagine how the sportsmen hailing from various countries and loyal to the ideals of the Olympics would feel if an aggressor like the Soviet Union whose hands are stained with the blood of the Afghan people is allowed to host the Olympic Games whose aim is peace and friendship, if the leader of this aggressor nation is allowed to declare the Olympic Games open? It is distasteful even to think that the Soviet social-imperialists who are overrunning the territories of other countries and pursuing expansionism everywhere should host the Olympic Games dedicated to the "creation of a better and more tranquil world". Who would believe that these social -imperialists have been spending huge sums on preparations for the Olympic Games just to make the Games a "sports festival"? The "book of the party activist" published in the Soviet Union this year says: "the decision to hold the Olympic Games in Moscow has become convincing evidence of the correctness of the foreign policy course of our country." The Soviet leadership has all along been striving to channel the summer Olympic Games into a course which would serve Soviet hegemonism well. The Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 was later dismissed as "Nazi Olympics", now, the Soviet leadership has clearly put its own political stamp on the Games even before they actually begin in Moscow.

4. The 17 Point Agreement was signed on 23 May 1951, following the 1950 military invasion of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army. It was abrogated by the Tibetans in 1959 after numerous breaches by the Chinese government. The full text and chronology of the Agreement is available here or by fax. Call Anne Callaghan on 020 7833 9958