As the Olympic torch continues its way across the world, surrounded by a coterie of track-suited Chinese security guards, many are calling for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing in the light of human rights abuses in Tibet. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has become the latest Czech politician to add his voice to those calls.
Karel Schwarzenberg has spoken out over the Olympics in no uncertain terms. After a meeting in Paris with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, Mr Schwarzenberg went so far as to compare this year’s Beijing Olympics to the Berlin Olympics organised by Nazi Germany.
“All European nations should have learnt enough of a lesson from 1936, when Hitler used the Olympic Games to his favour. He had an excellent propaganda filmmaker in Leni Riefenstahl, and that film about the Olympics was superb, but such wanton abuse of the Olympic ideals for propaganda purposes – this should never happen again.”
Mr Schwarzenberg said he had nothing against Czech athletes participating in the sporting events in Beijing, but he said he was strongly against politicians acting as unpaid extras in the televised spectacular of the opening ceremony. He also said the EU should receive the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the highest level, something that will deeply anger the Chinese authorities.
High-level Czech participation in the Olympic opening ceremony is looking increasingly unlikely. President Vaclav Klaus has already ruled out his presence because of a scheduled hip operation. That leaves prime minister Mirek Topolanek, who says the matter will be decided by the cabinet. The following is taken from a statement released by the prime minister’s press office.
“I have no intention of damaging the interests of our sportsmen and women, who are preparing themselves in earnest for the Games. Their participation in the Games is unrelated to my decision on whether or not to attend the opening ceremony, and I wish them success in any event. A decision on whether the prime minister - as the representative of the Czech Republic - should take part in the opening ceremony or not will be a decision taken by the whole government after detailed analysis. I’m not in the habit of making cheap gestures, and I don’t intend to make one in the case of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.”
The government says there’s no date yet on when that decision will be taken. But judging by statements made so far to the media, the majority of ministers are against the prime minister representing the Czech Republic at the opening ceremony.
Next in line, logically, would be the Education and Sports Minister. But minister Ondřej Liška is an outspoken critic of Chinese policy in Tibet. He’s also a deputy leader of the Green Party, which hung the Tibetan flag outside the Czech parliament this year to the fury of the Chinese Embassy. Mr Liška has already made it quite clear he is not going to Beijing.
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