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Olympics Brass Ignore China's Role in Ongoing Darfur Genocide

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The following was adapted from my piece in the NY Daily News:

There are few institutions in the world that claim to embody and protect humanity's highest dreams and values. The International Olympic Committee, custodian of the Olympic Games, is one of them.

Any organization that lays claim to the lofty moral goal of protecting mankind's universal dreams and aspirations should, from time to time, be subject to a reality check; rhetoric of morality and peace is without substance if words are not matched by deeds.

There is a direct connection -- financial, military, political and strategic -- between this year's Olympic host, China, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur that has been called the first genocide of the 21st century.

Entering its sixth year, it is unclear how many have died from the violence inflicted by the Arab-dominated government in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, against the non-Arab tribes of the region of Darfur. Hundreds of thousands by any estimate. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced.

As we speak, humanitarian aid is scaling back because the situation on the ground has become so dangerous for aid workers. Without security food delivery cannot continue.

And so, in addition to the recent spike in government and Janjaweed attacks, Darfurians are also dying a slow death of starvation and disease.

What does Darfur have to do with the International Olympic Committee? The IOC chose this year's Olympic host, China. China is underwriting the genocide in Darfur. While IOC remains silent.

"Respect for universal fundamental ethical principles" is what the IOC's Charter demands. When awarding the Olympics to China, the IOC said the Games would serve to "open up" China to the world on human rights issues. In fact, China's promise to improve its record on human rights issues was reportedly part of Beijing's pitch to the International Olympic Committee to win the privilege of hosting the Games.

Yet as the Games approach, the IOC has proven reluctant to mention, much less address, the human rights complaints about China. It was only recently, following large protests that dogged the Olympic Torch Relay in London and Paris, that the IOC President Jacques Rogge called for the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue. Responding only to the squeakiest wheel, Rogge ignored the plight of Darfur.

And so has China. Despite intense international scrutiny, Beijing has. done pathetically little to use its considerable leverage with Khartoum to bring desperately needed security to the people of Darfur.

[Co-Authored by Ellen Freudenheim]

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