Tibet pressures Olympic sponsors

Sponsor Spotlight: Tibet Groups Turn up Olympic Torch Heat

Tibet Group Adds to Sponsor Pressure

A major Tibet advocacy group tells Around the Rings the Olympic torch is being used as “cheap propaganda” and that it is calling on Olympic torch sponsors to keep the flame out of Tibet.

In a letter sent March 19 to Lenovo, Coke, and Samsung, the International Tibet Support Network says the torch relay will cause “yet more suffering to the Tibetan people.”

The London-based umbrella organization represents more than 150 Tibet advocacy groups. It wants to keep the torch out of Tibet, including Mt. Everest, as well as four Chinese provinces that have substantial Tibetan populations.
Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet, is in Olympia, urging the IOC to keep the torch out of Tibet. His group is one of the signatories to the ITSN letter. (Getty Images)

It will be deeply distressing for Tibetans to see a torch that is supposed to represent positive universal values used as “cheap propaganda” by Beijing, ITSN spokesman Matt Whitticase tells Around the Rings.

The relay will be provocative and inflammatory inside Tibet and will make the torch the target of protests worldwide, he adds.

“Torch relay sponsors clearly have strong influence on the International Olympic Committee and BOCOG,” says Whitticase.

“If they fail to use their undoubted influence on IOC and BOCOG, then the Tibet movement will have to include its next step which may include protests outside offices.”

He emphasizes that ITSN wants to give the sponsors time to respond and is not calling for protests at this point.

Coke has already responded to the letter.

“While it would be an inappropriate role for sponsors to comment on the political situation of individual nations, as the longest-standing sponsor of the Olympic Movement, we firmly believe that the Olympics are a force for good,” writes Coke spokesperson Kerry Kerr in a statement to U.S. media.

“We remain committed to supporting the Torch Relay, which provides a unique opportunity to share the Olympic values of unity, pride and inspiration with people all over the world,” she continues.

The flame will be officially lit in Olympia on March 24.

Another advocacy group, Dream for Darfur, will release the second of its so-called Olympic sponsor report cards in the coming weeks. The report grades the TOP sponsors and several Games partners on their efforts to pressure China, through its ally Sudan, to help stop genocide in Darfur. The first report last June gave 13 companies failing grades. Dream for Darfur has promised public protests against companies that fail the new report card.

Coke Names China Torchbearers

Torch Relay sponsor Coca-Cola has introduced the two Chinese runners who will carry the flame after it is lit in Olympia, Greece, on Monday. The pair says they have a surprise of their own planned.

Liu Hongliang, son of the first man to ever represent China at the Olympics, with pop singer Li Hong Wang. The two will run with the Olympic Torch Relay this week in Greece. (BOCOG)

Hong Liang Liu is a professor at the Chinese Academy of Engineering who is well-known for his work on environmental protection. Liu is also the son of the first Chinese Olympian, who participated in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.

"I want to thank my father, for his undaunted spirit is always with me and encourages me to work hard, "Liu said.

Li Hong Wang is a popular singer from Chinese Taipei.

“I have consulted with Mr. Liu, (and) we will give you a surprise when we relay the torch each other,” Wang told reporters.

Coca-Cola nominated nearly 1200 delegates from China for the torch relay. Big names include action movie star Jackie Chan, basketball legend Yao Ming, Yi Jian Lian, and Guo JingJing. Most runners are average Chinese from every walk of life. The youngest torch runner is 14 years old; the eldest is 91.

Sponsor Briefs…

Millennium Development Corporation is the newest supplier of the Vancouver Games, in a deal worth $3 million. The Vancouver-based developer is already working on the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Village, under a contract awarded in 2006. The Millennium deal is a cash-only contribution to VANOC; as an official supplier, the company will draw on Games imagery and slogans as it markets the village to private buyers.

Sport flooring company Mondo and the IAAF have signed a deal to continue partnering through 2019. The new agreement “represents a considerable increase to the current contract,” says IAAF president Lamine Diack of the deal. Mondo has been an official supplier of the athletics federation since 1987.

AT&T will provide exclusive, on-demand 2008 Team USA coverage to its U-verse internet television subscribers, the company has announced. “The Summer Olympics is one of the biggest events of the year, and we’re excited to give U-verse TV customers exclusive, front-row access to their favorite Olympic sports and athletes,” says Dan York, AT&T head of programming. The company is an official sponsor of the 2008 Games.

The American Farrier’s Association has been named official farriers of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. They will provide up to six farriers each day in Lexington, Kentucky during the premier International Equestrian Federation event.

Written by Maggie Lee

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Boycott the Beijing Olympics
March 24, 2008 by kate

From the bastion of free media otherwise known as the People’s Republic of China comes the news that everything is fine in Tibet. Nothing to see here, international community! Everyone move along, consume your surprisingly cheap goods, continue to send us your e-waste, and join us for the happy parade of drug-free nationalism otherwise known as the Olympic Games.

It’s long past time for any nations that purport to be advocates of human rights to get it together and boycott the Olympics. It shouldn’t have been scheduled for Beijing in the first place, but the argument at the time was that the games would serve as leverage to get desirable reforms in China. Sadly, no.

I’m not going to list China’s offenses here. Reporters Without Borders has done a fine job, and there’s nobody credible who’s convincingly defended the “There’s no problem there” argument. (Anyone reading this post who wants to take a crack at that should know that while Toxic Culture is extraordinarily lenient when it comes to crackpot views expressed in the comment section, we’ve already largely had our fill of apologists for mass murder.) They’re despicable. We’re fixing to be complicit. That should be sufficient. Now, some of the arguments against a boycott:

  1. “We tried this before.” True. 1980, US + 64 other nations, Soviet games, to protest the occupation of Afghanistan. That occupation escalated, Olympics went off without us, and the USSR (and a whole chunk of the “Eastern Bloc”) declined to come and play in Los Angeles in 1984. Let’s note that this isn’t an argument for complicity with the Beijing regime, and even if it’s true that a boycott won’t stop Chinese human rights abuses, that’s not a reason to go to the Olympics. Also, there’s a good argument to be made that trade interdependence and a more globalized media make China more susceptible to pressure than the Soviet Union was.

  2. “It just hurts the athletes.” Well, going might hurt the athletes more … literally. Never mind the food (the monolithic chicken breast discussed in this article is especially nasty). Plus, why is giving a relatively small handful of athletes an opportunity to compete at the Olympics a reason to provide cover for a brutal regime?

  3. “We need to engage China.” Well, even if this is true, it’s not a reason to go to the Olympics. It’s not even clear how something like the Olympics counts as “constructive engagement.” It wasn’t a reward for anything, and it wasn’t in any way (other than the usual weak IOC way) conditional on China getting its act together on anything other than stadium construction and, one assumes, the usual bribes & perks for the IOC. Engagement can happen in ways other than providing a big PR win & media ultra-spectacle to validate the (mobile!) murder of political dissidents.

Other assorted arguments might include a defense of the Olympics, its ideals of sporting behavior, and so forth. Well, we have professional and amateur athletics aplenty to allow this glory to continue. Also, that’s largely a load of baloney. The Olympics may have started out as for “amateurs,” but the whole thing is basically a big money industry heavily funded by nations looking to boost their prestige by beating other nations in the shot put (or soon! “Dancesport!”). It’s time to boycott, already. Enough jibber-jabber.