International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and Beijing Olympic organizers are confident that the Games will be a success despite threats of boycotts and a decision by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to pull out as an advisor to the opening and closing ceremonies. The confidence was bolstered by the organizers’ confirmation that pressure from human rights groups – which claim China is not doing enough to tackle the Darfur crisis – had not influenced Games sponsors or the success of the marketing program. “I have much respect for Spielberg’s decision; and if an athlete doesn’t want to go, I’ll respect that, too. But the Games will be a success, without a doubt,” Rogge said in an interview published on Tuesday in sports daily Marca. “The Games are bigger than any one person.”Rogge noted that the United States’ boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games to protest Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan did not ruin the event.
“The most powerful man in the world, the most influential (then-US president Jimmy Carter) ordered a boycott and the Games were still a success,” Rogge said. Rogge expects many heads of state – including US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy – to attend the opening ceremony.
Rogge said: “I think boycotts are a thing of the past, not of the present nor the future.”He reiterated that the IOC would not tolerate athletes mixing politics with sport, especially on the podium.
We don’t want this to turn into a political demonstration. This is sport,” he said.
In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday that boycotting the Beijing Olympic Games is not the right path to take. “We are excited about prospects for the Games in Beijing,” Miliband said in an interview with Chinese reporters. “We certainly believe that boycotts are not the right way.” Meanwhile, “not a single sponsor told us it plans to quit the marketing program or stop supporting this Olympic Games”, Yuan Bin, director of the BOCOG marketing department, said yesterday, adding they “made the right decision”.”China has worked hard for the Games, including the sponsors,” she told a news conference. Altogether, 63 global and local companies – ranging from worldwide partners to service suppliers – have joined the marketing program.
Major sponsors include Adidas, Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, General Electric, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as well as computer maker Lenovo Group and other Chinese companies. The Paralympic Games has attracted 30 sponsors, with more companies set to join the program by the end of March. The biggest torch relay in Olympic history also sees the involvement of Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lenovo. “We have always seen the Olympics as a great event for the Chinese and our staff are working hard to prepare for the torch relay and the Games,” said Chen Danqing, Lenovo’s corporate communications director in Greater China.
By Austin Thomas in China