Darfur, and the Olympics

>> August 16, 2008

"I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur."

,says Joey Cheek, after at the last minute, he was denied his visa to goto Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

Joey Cheek, who was a 2006 Olympic speed skating gold medalist has not been shy about his opinions of China's contribution to the violence in Darfur. So what? They put a muzzle on him? Joey Cheek is the president, and co-founder of Team Darfur, an international coalition of athletes dedicated to raising awareness about, and bringing the end to the violence in Darfur.

But why should anyone be surprised? China has been supporting the Sudanese acts of genocide in Darfur for years now. According to one report, from save darfur.org, "Sudan buys 90 percent of its small arms from China, as well as big ticket items such as A5 Fantan ground-attack fighter jets. Despite an existing UN Security Council arms embargo for Darfur, China and Sudan are working together to exploit a loophole to keep the arms flowing. Specifically, China argues that it sells weapons to the Sudanese regime in Khartoum, and that it cannot be held responsible if Sudan then sends those weapons on to Darfur in violation of the embargo" Cannot be held responsible? C'mon, SERIOUSLY?!?

This is what Joey says, on his blog.
"This account was actually set up so that I could blog from Beijing, but as many of you have probably seen my visa was revoked by the Chinese government less than 24 hours before my flight was to depart. It is of course disappointing to me, but I am not alone. Brad Greiner, Kendra Zanotto, and Chris Boyles all had visas revoked or denied. I find this very concerning because I believe that it is an effort to silence anyone who is even suspected of disagreeing with the Chinese government.
I remain a huge believer in the power of the Olympic Games to bring people together and to be a force for conflict resolution around the world. The athletes that have joined Team Darfur did so out of a sense that the more than 2 million men, women, and children, who have been driven from their homes in Darfur deserve protection. Brad and I founded Team Darfur because we feel trying to stop conflicts such as the one in Darfur are exactly what the Olympics are about.

The recent media attention that has been paid to my situation has given us a spotlight to focus on the plight of the people in Darfur, but we must continue to fight to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The story of this Olympic Games is certainly not finished, but I want to personally thank the more than 25,000 people who wrote to support the athletes competing in Beijing that are members of Team Darfur. I am moved by your words and I know that the athletes are too.
Best of luck to all the athletes - even though I am not there in body, I am rooting for you with all of my heart here in the States!"

Click here to donate to SaveDarfur.org, and wear the wristband.


Kim J August 17, 2008 at 10:00 PM  

Good post, I haven’t been following everything about the Olympics so thanks for keeping me informed. I am glad and amazed there are people like Joey Cheek that speak out about horrible things going on, no matter how much it cost him.

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