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Polish Weightlifter Makes Tibet Protest in Beijing

August 20, 2008 (Poland)
August 19, 2008

The first and long-awaited Tibet-related protest of by Polish athlete
-- the weightlifter Szymon Ko?ecki -- in Beijing. In keeping with
earlier pledges, Mr Ko?ecki shaved his head in a gesture of
solidarity with the Tibetan monks.

Following this year's dramatic events in Tibet, Mr Ko?ecki said: 'I
am outraged by what's going on in Tibet. When I read about it, I can
hardly believe I'll compete in a country that bloodily suppresses
street protests and persecutes people who don't agree with the party.
I can't believe the Chinese have launched an immense operation to block Lhasa'.

'This month in Beijing is a chance for the world's biggest audience
to see how China persecutes the Tibetan people'.

'I am sure that informal groups will emerge of athletes willing to
manifest what they think. Until 17 August I'll be focused chiefly on
my participation in the contest. But after that I'll keep my eyes
wide open and if I see something worrying, I'll surely not look away'.

In his conversation with Gazeta, Mr Ko?ecki said that even before the
events in Tibet he wanted to demonstrate his support for the occupied
region in Beijing. He was one of the few Polish athletes who spoke so
firmly in favour of the Tibetans and against China's human rights violations.

On 20 March this year, Mr Ko?ecki said, 'Unless the Chinese regime
becomes more moderate, I'll compete with my head shaved in a gesture
of solidarity with the Tibetan monks'.

Yesterday he participated in the weightlifting competition, winning
silver, with his head shaved. He so commented on his appearance:
'It's a haircut from this morning. I can't really say why I decided
to wear it. It's connected with certain things that the Olympic
Charter forbids*. But I can say that it's symbolic'.

Head-shaving was one of the propositions of the Athlete Wanted
campaign carried out across the world by pro-Tibet organisations. In
Poland, the campaign was carried out by the Inna Przestrzen'
Foundation's Tibetan Programme, as part of which Polish athletes were
contacted directly as well as via the internet. More on the campaign
here: and here

* Rule 51.3 of the Olympic Charter provides that 'no kind of
demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is
permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas'.
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