Olympics are force for good, Verbruggen tells human rights groups

July 21, 2007 - 0:0

PARIS (AFP) -- The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be viewed as having played an important role in creating a greater understanding between China and the rest of the world, the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) chairman of the coordination committee said on Friday.

Hein Verbruggen, formerly president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), also told two human rights groups in a letter sent to AFP that he had been misquoted in a speech to the IOC a fortnight ago when it was claimed he said 'agendas (as in social and human rights groups) must be negated' by BOCOG (the acronym for the organizing committee). Verbruggen had been attacked for the use of the word, though, his underlying message to the IOC had been to warn off human rights and other social activists from attempting to hijack the Olympics for their own political ends, declaring that the Games were a force for good. Verbruggen said at the IOC meeting in Guatemala City that: ""The way in which the Games are being used as a platform for groups with political and social agendas is regrettable. ""Whilst we are sympathetic to many of the important issues being raised by those who chose to leverage the platform the Olympic Games provides, we cannot allow these, albeit important agendas, to distract us from our primary mission, which is of course, to ensure that a successful event is hosted which brings together the athletes of the world. ""We must keep our focus, strong in the knowledge that positive developments come by engaging through sport and through working quietly and patiently with our partners, BOCOG. ""BOCOG too must strengthen how to deal with these important matters which, if we are not careful, threaten the reputation of the Games."" Last week the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) had slammed Verbruggen for his comments and using the term 'regrettable'. ""In our opinion, actions taken in actions taken in the 'spirit of humanism, fraternity, and respect for individuals,' which inspires the Olympic ideal, can never be characterized as 'regrettable,' said the groups' letter