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Tibetans try to upstage China with own Olympics

May 24, 2008

By Abhishek Madhukar
Reuters
May 22, 2008 4:50pm IST

DHARAMSALA, India -- A handful of exiled Tibetans in India began
competing on Thursday in what they said were the "Tibetan Olympics",
an event high on symbolism meant to mock China, the host of the real
Summer Games in August.

On a lush ground at the foothills of the Himalayas, 13 men and 10
women in white and red track suits emblazoned with the five
intertwined rings Olympics logo shot arrows and fired from air guns,
marking the opening of the four-day games.

"When the world will go to Beijing in August, Tibetans will feel left
out, deprived of their rights," Lobsang Wangyal, the chief organiser,
told Reuters.

"So in order to make the Tibetans not feel sad and in order to make
Tibetans feel a part of the Beijing Olympics we are celebrating
Tibetan Olympics."

The Tibetan games are another form of innovative protests by the
exiles against China's crackdown after the March unrest in Lhasa.
Nearly 150,000 Tibetans live in India, which has also hosted the
Dalai Lama since he fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising
against the Chinese.

Dharamsala has been the epicentre of Tibetan protests that have
dogged the Beijing Olympic torch relay across the world.

LOTUS POSITION

Tibetans said their version of the Olympics aimed to show their
resolve to participate in the real thing some day. Tibetan spiritual
leader, the Dalai Lama, supports the Beijing Olympic Games and has no
plans to attend this alternative event.

The Tibetan games began under grey skies with Tibetan songs followed
by a prayer and meditation by participants sitting in the lotus position.

"The track may be simple, the dresses may be simple, the equipment
may be simple and there may be rain, but our spirit will continue and
we will go on together," said Shihan Hussaini, a karate expert and a
speaker at the opening ceremony.

"We don't have a chief guest, we don't have the power and money to
get the people here, but you are all our chief guests and we all
declare this parallel Tibetan Olympics open."

Archery was the first event and each competitor was given three
arrows to shoot in two minutes. The archers, cheered by a small
crowd, went around collecting their wooden arrows after each round
because arrows were short in supply.

Primarily a show funded by Wangyal, the Tibetan Olympics is being
covered by a small group of journalists, including from the western media.

"The event was a low budget and simple affair and funding was the
most difficult part," Wangyal said.

"I will be in debt after (this), but it will be a worthwhile debt,"
he said. "Through this event, we can tell the world our part of the
story that Tibetans are alive and kicking."
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