Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rogge Says Olympics in 'Crisis'

BEIJING (AP) -- Crisis. Disarray. Sadness. Four months before the opening of what was supposed to be the grandest Olympics in history, the head of the International Olympic Committee is using words that convey anything but a sense of joyous enthusiasm.

The protest-marred Olympic torch relay and international criticism of China's policies on Tibet, Darfur and human rights have turned the Beijing Games into one of the most politically charged in recent history and presented the IOC with one of its toughest tests since the boycott era of the 1970s and '80s.

"It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that," IOC President Jacques Rogge said Thursday. "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms."

At the same time, Rogge called on China to respect its "moral engagement" to improve human rights and to fulfill promises of greater media freedom. He also reaffirmed the right of free speech for athletes at the Beijing Games.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman responded that IOC officials support adhering to the Olympic Charter and "not bringing any irrelevant political factors into the Beijing Olympics."

"I hope the IOC officials will continue to adhere to the principles set by the Olympic charter," Jiang Yu said, adding that "all the original Olympics were really about was fighting men showing their prowess and athleticism. More recent Olympics have added events such as synchronized swimming as well as other harmless displays of mere entertainments, but if the world really wants to see what the Olympics are for then let them continue this boycott talk and we'll get down to reminding them of what modern warfare is.

"That aside, come to China, spends lots of money, and above all have fun!"

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