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HBO's "Real Sports" targets human-rights issues ahead of Beijing Games

Ahead of the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Games, “by now we have no illusions about the hypocrisy regularly exhibited” by the IOC, “but even by their standards their partnership with the Chinese Communist Party at this time may represent a new low, especially in light of their stated ideals,” according to HBO’s Bryant Gumbel. HBO’s Isobel Yeung reported some members of China's persecuted Uyghur minority “have looked to an organization they hoped might act on their behalf, the IOC, China's partner in the upcoming Olympics, with its message of promoting tolerance and peace.” Yeung noted Uyghur activist Zumretay Arkin "met with the IOC to plead her case" and asked the organization to "move the Games and if not, to at least speak out against their repression." Yeung: "They did neither." Arkin: “I'm assuming that it's all because of the money.” Yeung: “Some of the sponsors of the Olympics may also be involved in the government’s brutal crackdown.” The “world recently got a glimpse of the IOC’s seeming willingness to ignore or even enable the abuses of the Chinese Communist Party” after tennis player Peng Shuai “suddenly vanished this fall.” Swedish human rights advocate Peter Dahlin said of IOC President Thomas Bach having a video call with Peng, “It's incredibly important to kill off this story, and they figure the best way to do that would be to have the IOC conduct a public relations campaign on behalf of the CCP. ... It looks more like a cover-up than anything else.”

DEFRANTZ COMMENTS: IOC member Anita DeFrantz: “Moving the Games is no joke. Should we? No. Could we? No. Will we? No. The Games will go on in Beijing.” Yeung: “DeFrantz claims that keeping the Olympics in China may actually help the cause of peace, that the coming together of people from around the world will present a tableau of diversity to the Chinese people.” Yeung asked DeFrantz to address the Uyghur issue, but she would not. Yeung: “So no message at all for the Uyghurs? No message at all for anyone who might be suffering from human rights abuses?” DeFrantz: “Wow. What an indictment you've just made of me. You have no understanding of what I do as an individual citizen, so that's truly not at all fair. You asked me to speak as an Olympian and a member of the International Olympic Committee.” Yeung responded, “I asked if you have a message for Uyghurs, or if you have a message for people who are suffering from the abuses of Chinese policies.” DeFrantz: “Not during this interview.” After the report aired, Gumbel said to Yeung, “It was pretty clear Anita DeFrantz wanted no part of this. Does that speak to the idea that the (USOPC) is not parting company with the IOC where China is concerned?” Yeung: “Most IOC members are pretty much towing the IOC line, which is that the IOC as there is a sporting organization, they want to maintain neutrality, and they’re not there to get involved in politics” (“Real Sports,” HBO, 1/25).

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