There have been calls across the globe to boycott
the Olympics over the Tibet issue [AFP]
Germany has rejected calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of China's crackdown in Tibet and pledged to send a team to the games.

However at the same time, the German Olympic Sports Union (DOSB), the highest Olympic and sports body in the country, said it was following the events in Tibet with "great attention and concern," and added it was aware that the human rights situation in China was still "unsatisfactory" despite improvements in the last few years.

In a statement issued Monday, the DOSB noted that the United Nations, the German government and the Dalai Lama had spoken out against a boycott of the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Some German athletes have reacted to the Chinese crackdown on pro-independence protests in Tibet by supporting calls for a boycott, while others have questioned the wisdom of a boycott.

The DOSB said it would be possible for all German athletes to speak their minds during the Olympics, as long as they stay within the bounds of the Olympic charter.

But that charter gives little freedom to athletes who wish to make any sort of statement.

International Olympic Committee rules state that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.''

A pro-Tibet German group, Tibet Initiative Deutschland, has consistently urged the IOC to take away the Olympics from China.

'A moral fig leaf'

The group, which will host the Dalai Lama's visit to Germay in May, said staying away from the opening ceremony was a step in the right direction but in the end would be merely a "moral fig leaf.''

The DOSB said it had had consulted with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and that both were clearly against a boycott, while deploring the human rights situation in China.

The two human rights organisations have been invited to contribute to the information package which the DOSB plans to distribute to all German Olympians.

Germany usually sends one of the biggest teams to the Olympics.

The statement noted that the Olympic charter obliged the DOSB to take part in Olympics and the role of sport was to instigate dialogue and understanding.

"Its job is to build bridges and not erect walls. That's why sport is not a good way of exerting political pressure,'' the statement said.

"Sport is not able to solve problems that neither the United Nations nor governments have not solved despite decades-long efforts.''

Previous Olympic boycotts had no positive impact and the games raise attention on the host country, allowing government and nongovernment organizations to increase their pressure for human rights, the DOSB said.

The German body said it expected China to fulfill its pledge to allow up to 25,000 media representatives to cover the Games.

Germany will continue to make its view known to Chinese officials, the statement said.

Source: Agencies