Fanning the Olympic flames

  • 2008-04-01
  • Monika Hanley in cooperation with BNS

Photo: Xinhuanet

As Chinese President Hu Jintao marked the official start ofthe global Olympic torch relay in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square onMonday, many nations, including the Baltics, have expressed concern regardinghuman rights breaches in Tibet.

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers had planned to visit Beijing for the summer2008 games, but is now unsure, although he encourages Latvian athletes toparticipate.

"I believe that the Tibetissue should be solved peacefully and this is China's chance to show the goodwill and make one step forward as protest campaigns will be held for the wholeOlympic torch relay," said Zatlers. "I am seriously considering thedecision as I have dual feelings -- support to athletes and condemnation for China."

The President of the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOC) Aldons Vrublevskisspeaking at the LOC General Assembly earlier said the question of a boycott wasa political issue and not a matter of sports, but ruled out the possibilitythat Latviamight boycott the 2008 Games.

"A political decision to boycott the games would only hurt athletes andwould not benefit anybody," the sports official said.

Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins said that Latvian top stateofficials might change their stance and not visit the opening and closing ceremoniesof the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Latvian parliament sports subcommittee lawmakers are also supporting the athletes.

Committee head Dzintars Abikis said that "boycott never leads toanything positive." He also went on to say that the participation of politiciansshould be separated from the participation of the sportsmen in the games,although the events in Tibetshould definalty be condemned.

The center-right opposition party New Era representative Inguna Ribena statedthat neither the athletes nor officials should participate in the Olympics, showingsupport for Tibet, which isa "pearl at the Chinese uniform" and condemning the politicsimplemented by China.She underscored that the events in Tibet are much more important than"some games taking place here or there."

The Olympic Games in the Chinese capital city of Beijing are to begin on August 8. Over 20Latvian athletes have already won the rights to take part in the internationalsporting event, and the delegation is still expected to grow, as qualificationin many kinds of sports is still continuing. The number of athletes in theLatvian delegation may exceed 50.