Friday, August 08, 2008

Team Darfur and the Olympics

"Team Darfur is an international coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan .

"A campaign leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, Team Darfur aims to educate the global public through the unique voice of elite athletes. Team Darfur brings together the world's Olympic and professional athletes to put international pressure not only on Sudan, but also on those countries that support the policy of inaction in the face of this dire humanitarian crisis."

I would urge everyone to visit the Team Darfur site - to get involved, to purchase an arm band, to support the athletes, to reach out to help these people.

Team Darfur was started by Olympic Gold Medalist Speed Skater, Joey Cheek and UCLA water polo player Brad Greiner. In 2006, Joey announced that he would donate his Medal bonuses and encouraged other athletes and sponsors to do the same. He raised over $1 million for the relief effort.

Joey Cheek had planned to travel to Beijing for the Olympics and to show support for the 72 Olympic athletes who are part of Team Darfur, but the Chinese revoked his visa today without explanation. A list of the 360+ athletes of Team Darfur can be found here.

Joey's statement:

“I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur. Team Darfur’s main efforts have been to advocate for an Olympic Truce for Darfur, and to raise awareness about the crisis and ask for lasting peace on behalf of the children of Darfur.

“The Olympic Truce captures the spirit of the Olympics: around the Games, the world should come together to work for peace and speak out against conflict. The Chinese government’s efforts to suppress athletes, even those who are competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, who speak about essential human rights issues, is a violation of that core Olympic spirit.

“I still remained convinced of the great role the Olympics can play as a force for promoting peace around the world, including in still raging crisis in Darfur. Yet, despite the fact that I’ve always spoken positively of the Olympic ideal, and never called for a boycott or asked an athlete to break an IOC rule, my visa was revoked less than 24 hours before my scheduled departure.”

Meet Lopez Lomong. He was one of the 'Lost Boys' of the Sudan. Eight years ago, he came to the United States. Thirteen months ago, he became a citizen. He runs the 1,500 meters. He is a member of Team Darfur. Friday night, he will carry the flag of the United States of America in the opening ceremony in Beijing.

ESPN has a story about Lopez Lomong -

While Joey Cheek will not be there to give support to the Team Darfur athletes, the athletes will be visible to the Chinese government, especially when Lopez Lomong leads the United States contingent into the arena.


Sarge Charlie said...

This is good Ms Gazier, I did a post that is 28 years old and still brought tears to my eyes.

Wade Huntsinger said...

Why why why is this still going on?????????