SBD/Issue 128/Olympics

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  • France President Sarkozy Not Ruling Out Beijing Boycott

    Sarkozy May Boycott Opening
    Ceremony At Beijing Olympics
    France President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday said that he "may stay away" from the Opening Ceremony of this summer's Beijing Olympics "unless the Chinese authorities exercised restraint in dealing with the Tibetan independence movement and opened talks with the Dalai Lama," according to O'Connor, Elliott & Frean of the LONDON TIMES. Sarkozy: "Our Chinese friends must understand the worldwide concern that there is about the question of Tibet." Sarkozy became the first world leader to suggest a possible boycott as Britain and France "increased the pressure on China over Tibet."  But a UK Department for Culture, Media & Sport spokesperson said the Opening Ceremony is "part of the Games and our position against a boycott of the Games has not changed. We do not believe in a boycott as a way of effecting change." Sarkozy is scheduled to visit Britain today, and his comments "threatened to open a rift" with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown is scheduled to attend the Games' Closing Ceremony when London, set to host the next Summer Games in 2012, will receive the Olympic torch from Beijing. (LONDON TIMES, 3/26). Sarkozy: "I don't close the door to any option. I want dialogue to begin." In London, Richard Spencer notes prior to yesterday, Western governments had "been measured in their response to two weeks of unrest in Tibet, mostly rejecting any possibility" of a boycott (London TELEGRAPH, 3/26).

    CENSORSHIP RESPONSE: France Televisions Sports Dir Daniel Bilalian said that his company "could consider a boycott if Chinese government censors the footage." Bilalian: "For the moment, we don't intend to boycott the games." But Bilalian added if the Games are "in any way censored or sanitized by the Chinese authorities ... that would obviously put our position in question" (AP, 3/25). CBC Sports Exec Dir Scott Moore, in response to reports that China will not allow int'l networks to shoot live footage from Tianamen Square during the Olympics, wrote on his blog, "If this is true, it is something we at the CBC, and our colleagues from other networks around the world, need to be very concerned about. And we need to be vocal in our opposition to this and any other proposed restrictions on our ability to tell whatever stories happen during the Games. ... It will be our position that when China agreed to stage the Games, they agreed to allow standard Olympic reporting. They need to live up to that" (, 3/21).

    NBC COVERAGE: GE Dir of PR & Marketing Services Deirdre Latour said of NBC accepting censorship by the Chinese government, "That's a question for the IOC." Latour said that GE's role is "merely to fund the Games." Latour: "The role of a sponsor isn't take up cause X, Y and Z, it is to do what we can within our sphere of responsibility" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26). In a Q&A with BROADCASTING & CABLE's Marisa Guthrie, NBC Olympics Exec Producer David Neal said of negative coverage of China possibly affecting the Games, "Our philosophy of coverage has always been that if something transpires that affects the athletes or affects the competition, then certainly, we will cover it fully. The Olympics is this enormous moving jigsaw puzzle where just when you think you've figured out where all of the pieces go, somebody picks up the box and shakes it." Neal said though the net took just more than 3,000 people to cover the '04 Athens Olympics, NBC is "determined to take fewer to China to take advantage of the evolution of technology and turn around a portion of our programming here at 30 Rock this summer. And a big part of that is trying to reduce the number of people we have to travel halfway around the world. I'm confident that it will take substantially less than 3,000 this summer" (, 3/23).

    Anti-Chinese Protests Expected During
    Olympic Torch's Tour Through S.F. In April
    PROTESTS: In S.F., Matier & Ross report with the Olympic torch relay set to stop in S.F. April 9, the Chinese have asked that the tour around the city be cut from eight to six miles. S.F. City Hall sources indicated that there will be "no move to silence demonstrators, or to bar them from unfurling banners or holding up signs during either the run or the opening or closing ceremonies." A city official said that police will "screen attendees at the ceremonies for weapons and projectiles." Also, the Darfur Coalition has told city police and officials that it "plans to have at least 1,000 people placed along the torch route." The group also has bought signs on 80 city buses that read, "Tell China to stop sponsoring genocide in Darfur" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/26). Meanwhile, Kevan Gosper, Vice Chair of the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Games, yesterday urged political activists "not to target the Beijing Games." Gosper: "I think the Olympic Games are a cause and an agent for good, not a panacea for ills" (AP, 3/25). A Canwest News Service & Global National survey revealed that just 37% of Canadians polled believe Canada should boycott the Games. Fifty-six percent of Canadians "do not support a boycott," while 7% were undecided or did not answer (CANWEST NEWS SERVICE, 3/25).

    PROMISE RINGS: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes the Beijing Olympics are "shaping up as a disaster." Chinese officials have "violated the basic spirit of the event and reneged on every promise they made to the [IOC] about their willingness to accommodate the world." While the Olympics "aren't supposed to be political," they "aren't supposed to be a force of evil, either." It is "time for the IOC to make the Chinese government live up to its word, and to the Olympic charter and spirit. Otherwise, take the Games away from Beijing" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26). In DC, Tom Knott writes under the header, "Olympics Won't Alter Chinese." Knott: "You can bet on plenty of self-righteous noise between now and August but no meaningful actions. ... Welcome to the Hypocrisy Games" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/26). 

    OPINION LEADERS: A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial states, "China needs to live up to its promises. The rest of the world should demand it, and peaceful protests along the torch route are one small way to do that" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/26). A TORONTO STAR editorial states, "Even the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece became an embarrassment for China." This summer's Games, "far from showcasing China's stunning social and economic progress ... are now an exercise in crisis management that China's leadership is flubbing" (TORONTO STAR, 3/26). A WASHINGTON POST editorial is written under the header, "Olympic Shame," and states it looks as though the Games "could become a showcase for violent repression, censorship and political persecution by a regime that has failed to rise above the level of police state. ... It looks increasingly likely that the Olympics will serve to remind the world not of China's emerging greatness but of its continuing denial of freedom to its citizens, its repression of minorities and its amoral alliances with rogue states" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26).

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