Today: Last Update:

  • On the Scene in Valencia: China Human Rights a Persistent Issue for IOC President


    “Our responsibility is to help BOCOG to stage the best possible Games with the support of the Olympic Movement with respect to the host city contract,” IOC president Jacques Rogge told EOC delegates. (M.Bisson/ATR)  
    (ATR) IOC president Jacques Rogge has restated his position on China’s human rights record ahead of the Beijing Olympics in the wake of renewed calls for the IOC to take a political stance on the issue.
    And several national Olympic committees canvassed by Around the Rings have moved quickly to support the IOC’s stance.

    “Let me explain the position of the IOC once again. The IOC is not a political but a sports organization,” Rogge said today in his address to the 36th European Olympic Committees general assembly in Valencia, Spain.

    “Our responsibility is to help BOCOG to stage the best possible Games with the support of the Olympic Movement with respect to the host city contract.”

    Rogge’s comments come a few days after Pal Schmitt, a senior IOC member from Hungary and a European parliament member, urged the IOC to make a political statement on China’s human rights issue.

    Schmitt, who sits on the IOC international Relations Commission and is also IOC chief of protocol, made the call after hearing dissidents and activists speak about a worsening human rights climate at a hearing of the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee Monday.

    “We can't just close our ears to what's happening. We did it for the apartheid regime, so let's do it again,” Schmitt was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.

    Schmitt insisted that a statement on rights would not hurt the IOC’s relationship with China, but said any boycott of the Games would not help the situation.

    Asked to comment on Schmitt’s comments, Rogge said: “Let me say that Pal Schmitt said that he was misquoted and I have not yet spoken with him.” He declined to comment any further to Around the Rings.

    Around 350 delegates, representing Europe’s 49 national Olympic committees, together with delegations from the next three Olympic Games, are gathered at the EOC meeting.

    Also in Valencia are representatives from the 2016 Olympic bid cities and host cities for the 2009 and 2011 European Youth Olympic Festivals.
    Serbia’s Predrag Manojlovic is among the NOC representatives happy with the IOC’s China stance. (M.Bisson/ATR)  

    Rogge’s irritation in having to reiterate the IOC’s position on China’s human rights record was made plain in his 25-minute speech to the EOC, although he made no direct reference to Schmitt’s comments.

    He acknowledged that there was an issue with many NOCs being approached by non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the media about China’s human rights.

    “The IOC of course respects the activities and causes defended by the NGOs,” he said. “The IOC itself has very strong ethical values embedded in the Olympic Charter and meets on a regular basis with the NGOs. We listen to them, we exchange views.

    “I am glad to say that the Games are a force for the good. The Games open up China to the eyes of the world and China is changing.”

    Rogge made reference to China’s new media laws, new labor laws and “a genuine fight against child labor”.

    “And even if our Chinese friends admit themselves that they have to go further, I’m glad to say that the Games help to advance the social agenda in China or in any other countries where they are staged.”

    Representatives of the national Olympic committees for the Czech Republic, Serbia and Montenegro, the newest member of the Olympic family, supported the IOC’s reluctance to take a political position on China’s human rights.

    Jiri Zednicek, vice-president of the Czech Republic NOC, said: “I would be happier if the progress on human rights was faster. But whatever the IOC has done so far has meant unexpectedly strong progress on the Chinese side.

    “I believe politicians shouldn’t hide behind the athletes. This is first and foremost a political question,” he said.

    Serbia and Montenegro have had a troubled history of their own in which human rights issues have raised concerns during conflicts with neighboring countries following the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.
    Djordjije Kustudic is representing Montenegro at its first EOC assembly. (M. Bisson/ATR)  

    Montenegro voted for independence in May 2006 and later last year was admitted to the UN.

    Predrag Manojlovic, secretary general of Serbia’s Olympic committee, said the IOC was “doing enough” to pressure China to resolve the issues as part of its evaluation of Games preparations since Beijing was awarded the Olympics.

    And Djordjije Kustudic, secretary general of Montenegro’s Olympic committee, which was recognized by the IOC at its 119th IOC Session in Guatemala, agreed.

    “The IOC will find a way to manage that important issue with the Chinese authorities in the right manner to the satisfaction of both sides,” he said. “The problem is not maybe so big that it should overshadow all the other efforts of BOCOG.”

    Kustudic said it was “an honor” for Montenegro to be taking part in its first European Olympic Committees general assembly. “It is very important for our country to be represented at such an important meeting,” he told ATR.

    Reported by Mark Bisson from Valencia.

    For general comments or questions,
    click here

    Your best source of news about the Olympics is, for subscribers only.