PtG Article 10.08.2007

Tibetans set up national Olympic Committee to go to Beijing

Tibetans are increasingly using sports as a means of resisting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. So far it has led to diplomatic headaches in India where authorities have tried to stop sport events for Tibetans, and in Switzerland the president for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must figure out what to do about a letter from a new National Olympic Committee for Tibet.

The National Olympic Committee Tibet (NOC Tibet) has been established by a group of Tibetans in exile. The first action of the board members has been to send a letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge requesting an invitation for ”Team Tibet” to take part in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Currently, Tibet as a nation is not able to take part in the Olympic Games. But the NOC Tibet argues in a press release that Tibetans wish to be represented in the Olympic Games alongside other nations.

”Team Tibet members are young Tibetan sportspeople in exile. They are passionate about sport, but forced to live as refugees from their homeland. They share the Olympic dreams of other young athletes and want nothing more than to fly the Tibetan flag with pride and march alongside young people from other nations into the Olympic stadium,” Wangpo Tethong, President of NOC Tibet, writes to Jacques Rogge.

The likelihood that Team Tibet will receive an invite from the IOC to attend the Beijing Olympics is slim even though the board of NOC Tibet is hopeful that IOC delegates and National Olympic Committees around the world will support its request to become part of the Olympic family.

However, the Chinese organisers recently declared that they absolutely ”oppose a politicisation of the Olympic Games” but have resigned themselves to be ”mentally prepared” for the voices of political dissidents to become louder.

India tried to stop two Tibetan sport event

And in the context of Tibet, sport events are often opportunities for political expression. Early this month, the Tibetan People’s Movement tried to organise a football match in Delhi in India between Team Tibet and a local team. Before the match, a six-kilometre run was planned to protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet and launch a campaign to get Tibet represented at the Beijing Olympics.

The permission for the run was cancelled by Indian authorities at very short notice, and police put dozen of Tibetan students in a bus and drove them away from the stadium where the run for Tibet was supposed to start, the Associated Press reports. Team Tibet was also turned away from the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium and according to India Times, it was forced to trek across town to four different stadiums - with thousands of spectators in tow - before the match finally took place.

The Tibetans has accused the Indian government of caving in to Chinese pressure when it tried to stop the two events. B. Tsering - a spokeswoman for the organising committee - said to Express India that if ”China can force India, the biggest democratic nation to compromise on its democratic values, China’s misuse of power is a cause of real concern for the global community.”

An Indian government source told India Times that the Tibetans were planning to use the old Tibetan flag and to use the match as a precursor to the Beijing Games. ”The government therefore saw it as a political activity and refused the stadium as a venue for the game,” the source explained.