Continued Protests Plague Beijing Olympics Chinese officials are swinging back after a week of heated protests over their country's hosting of the upcoming summer games. Tom Goldman talks with guest host Lynn Neary about how protests are shaping the image of the Beijing Olympics and about an upcoming meeting of Olympic athletes in Chicago.
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Continued Protests Plague Beijing Olympics

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Continued Protests Plague Beijing Olympics

Continued Protests Plague Beijing Olympics

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LYNN NEARY, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary sitting in for Liane Hansen who's on assignment.

Chinese officials are sitting back after a week of heated protests over their country's hosting of the upcoming summer Olympic Games. In response to a U.S. congressional resolution urging China to end a crackdown on Tibetan protestors, a Chinese foreign ministry official said the resolution brutally interferes in China's internal politics and hurts the feelings of Chinese people. And the People's Daily Newspaper today wrote the lighting of the Olympic flame to open the games in Beijing in August will represent justice finally defeating evil.

Joining me to discuss the latest events is NPR sport correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, good to have you with us.

TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning, Lynn.

NEARY: Now, after a week of angry protest, it seems that things are a lot quieter along the route of the torch relay this weekend. Is that likely to continue?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, this weekend the torch passed through east Africa in Tanzania and then today on to Amman. Now, there was Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner who reportedly dropped out of the relay in Tanzania to protest China's human rights record. But other than that, the local reaction to the relay is not expected to be as bad as it was earlier this past week with violent protests in Paris and London and then in San Francisco. So things are supposed to be a little smoother.

NEARY: Are there any other troubled spots ahead for this torch relay?

GOLDMAN: Japanese officials have come out and said they don't want those Chinese security guards dressed in those blue and white track suits that people may have seen. They're the ones surrounding the torch and they're officially called the 29th Olympic Games Torch Relay Flame Protection Unit.

In London they were calling them thugs because they have quickly and forcefully ended any kind of protests. So the Japanese say they don't want these guards doing their thing in Tokyo. They say Japanese police will provide protection.

Maybe the best shot for a peaceful leg of the relay is in a couple of weeks in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The communist dictatorship there is certain to make sure there are no protests.

NEARY: And along with the protests there's also talk of an Olympic boycott. This must not be making the International Olympic Committee very happy I would think.

GOLDMAN: It's really not and the IOC has had to tread a very fine line here and really has hesitated to criticize the Chinese government. But IOC President Jacques Rogge actually did. He called the torch relay protests a crisis for the IOC. And then he said that in 2001 when the Games were awarded to China, Chinese officials promised to use the Olympics as a springboard for pushing forward the social agenda of China, including human rights.

And this week President Rogge called on China to respect that promise - what he called a moral engagement.

NEARY: Now, this is not the first time that there has been the intersection of the Olympics with controversial politics. And something the athletes even get involved. What do you think is going to happen this time? Any indication of that yet?

GOLDMAN: It's still in a state of flux. Rogge has spoke this week about the importance of freedom of expression for athletes and he endorsed that. But he was also reminded athletes who were going to end up in Beijing of a provision in the Olympic charter that forbids any political-type of demonstrations in Olympic venues or sights.

NEARY: There's a meeting this week in Chicago with American Olympic athletes. What's going to happen there?

GOLDMAN: Probably a lot of confusion at this point because athletes haven't been given a clear idea of what they can do. There's a French pole-vaulter named Romain Mesnil and he's been talking about getting concerned athletes to wear a badge at the Games saying For a Better World.

Now, he's not sure that will comply with the Olympic charter I just mentioned. There was a poll of about 125 Olympic athletes and it found almost half of them are prepared to boycott the opening ceremony.

NEARY: Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Lynn.

NEARY: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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