Members of the IOC’s Coordination Committee have just wrapped up their final major round of talks with Chinese officials before the Olympics launch in August. The results? Decidedly mixed. The head of the coordination committee, Hein Verbruggen, pronounced China capable of a “gold medal performance” as host of the Games. Yet Tibet, jailed activist Hu Jia and a number of other issues loomed large.
First, on the good news side of things, the BBC reports IOC officials were pleased with Chinese assurances on the free flow of information during the game, in particular a promise to allow genuine live broadcasting:
China routinely delays pictures on state television by up to a minute to allow greater control over what is shown.
At the end of its 10th and final official meeting, the head of the IOC’s Coordination Committee said he was confident that the organising committee in Beijing would live up to its promises.
These include making sure foreign news websites are unblocked and live television pictures are beamed around the world without any delay.
As the Washington Post reports, however, the tenor of the IOC press conference was not entirely happy. Responding to questions over a litany of recent China human rights issues, Verbruggen shot back a bit testily:
“It’s not the first time that I’m saying this. It’s not up to us to comment on those cases,” he said. “It’s a matter of Chinese law, and it’s not a matter of sport nor a matter for the Olympic Games or the IOC. . . . We are not a political organization.”
In noting that candidates to host the 2016 Summer Olympics include Madrid and Chicago, Verbruggen asked, “Would the IOC be forced or obliged to speak out because Madrid is a candidate, on the requests of the Pays Basque to be independent from Spain? Or would the IOC, because Chicago is a candidate, have to speak out on Guantanamo or Iraq?”
New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the IOC this week of operating in a “moral void” and asked it to explain what standards compatible with respecting human rights should be used in guiding the Olympic movement.
“The question isn’t whether the IOC is a human rights organization,” Sophie Richardson, the group’s Asia advocacy director, said in a statement. “It’s whether the Olympic movement respects human rights.”
The Washington Post also quoted Wang Wei, a top Beijing Olympic Committee official, as saying “some control” over the Internet would still be required during the Games to protect impressionable teenagers.