IOC President Jacques Rogge: "Tibet is
a great concern" [AFP]
International Olympic Committee president Jacque Rogge has expressed his concern over the violence in Tibet, and argued that the 2008 Beijing Games will help China change for the better.

Rogge, who is scheduled to attend Monday's flame-lighting ceremony, also stated that the IOC was in the position to become involved in the matter.

"The events in Tibet are a matter of great concern to the IOC," Rogge said.

"The IOC has already expressed the hope that this conflict should be resolved peacefully as soon as possible. Violence for whatever reason is contrary to the Olympic values and spirit."

Demonstrations in Tibet turned violent on March 14, and thousands of troops, many armed with rifles and riot shields, have swarmed the area for days, setting up encampments and patrolling the streets to prevent new riots.

"We believe that China will change by opening the country to the scrutiny of the world through the 25,000 media who will attend the games," Rogge said.

"The Olympic Games are a force for good. They are a catalyst for change, not a panacea for all ills.

"Awarding the Olympic Games to the most populous country in the world will open up one fifth of mankind to Olympism,'' Rogge added.

While most politicians have rejected calling for a full boycott of the Olympics some are suggesting that skipping the opening ceremony will be enough.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg was supposed to be the artistic advisor for both the opening and closing ceremonies, but he pulled out last month because of China's connection to Sudan and the violence in Darfur.

Calls for pressure

Others around the world have been calling for the IOC to put pressure on China to change the way it views Tibet and also to help end the situation in Darfur, where Beijing yields a large amount of influence.

"NGOs and human rights' activists want to leverage the games and ask the IOC to act along by their side,'' Rogge said.

"The IOC respects NGOs and activist groups and their causes, and speaks regularly with them, but we are neither a political nor an activist organisation.

"The IOC will continue to respect the cause of the human rights. The IOC will work tirelessly with China for the welfare of the athletes and the success of the Olympic Games.''

In Ancient Olympia, about 1,000 police will surround the flame-lighting area to keep pro-Tibetan protesters away from the ceremony.

Rogge, however, prefers to put the athletes first.

"The main responsibility of the IOC is to deliver the best possible Olympic Games to the athletes, who deserve it,'' Rogge said.

Source: Agencies