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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

IOC congratulates itself for Beijing Olympics

October 10, 2009

By JOHN LEICESTER
(AP) - October 7, 2009

COPENHAGEN - Despite criticism from human rights campaigners, the
International Olympic Committee gave itself a big pat on the back Wednesday
for awarding the 2008 Games to Beijing.

In a report to the IOC, the committee's chief evaluator and coordinator for
the 2008 Olympics insisted that the games produced "lasting legacies" for
Beijing and its people.

"I am more convinced than ever that the games have and will prove to be a
positive catalyst for change in China," said Hein Verbruggen, who led both
the IOC's evaluation commission for the 2008 Games and its coordination
commission.

The former IOC member's 28-minute report made no mention of the arrests and
harassment of dissidents before and during the games, protests that were
violently crushed in Tibet, forced evictions to clear the way for Olympic
construction or other abuses documented by human rights groups.

"Whatever is being said about Beijing 2008, let's remember that the Olympic
Games remained fundamentally a force for good and a catalyst for
collaboration and change," Verbruggen said.

"Awarding the games to China and allowing the Chinese citizens to welcome
the world was the best path to continued dialogue between cultures and
civilizations. Building cultural bridges will remain one of the most
valuable legacies of these games. The IOC's members decision to award the
games to Beijing in 2008 has proved to be the right choice."

He added: "To those who have criticized us on human rights issues, I can
argue that the games have elevated international dialogue on such issues."

However, Verbruggen said heavy police security in Beijing took some shine
off the games.

"Ensuring a festive atmosphere in some areas proved challenging," he said.
"That was particularly true in the Olympic Green, where more people should
have been welcomed and more activities planned. While security, of course,
is a top priority at the games, it needs to be correctly balanced with
public participation so as not to dampen the party mood that should exist."

Large protests against China's policies on human rights and Tibet dogged the
passage of the Olympic flame during its relay around the world before the
Beijing Games, particularly in London, Paris and San Francisco. Verbruggen
said the IOC must learn from this "unfortunate pinnacle of public criticism
and misuse of games symbols," adding that such actions could tarnish the
Olympic brand. The next two games, in Vancouver and London, are doing
national relays only.

"Many groups tried to use the games' unparalleled platform to promote their
own causes. Let's be realistic, this will always be the case and as a result
our brand can sometimes be tainted by wrongly targeted campaigns or
demonstrations," Verbruggen said.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said this week that he wants to work with human
rights groups to help the committee better understand such issues. But he
also made clear that the IOC intends to limit itself to human rights
concerns within sports only.

Verbruggen said the IOC must better manage expectations of what it can
realistically do.

"Although we care very much for all the ills of the world, we must remain
realistic and realize that our influence lies in areas connected to sport
and the Olympic Games," he said.
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