An article from Mia Farrow….
There are few institutions in the world that claim to embody and protect humanity’s highest dreams and values. The International Olympic Committee, custodian of the Olympic Games, is one of them.
Any organization that lays claim to the lofty moral goal of protecting mankind’s universal dreams and aspirations should, from time to time, be subject to a reality check; rhetoric of morality and peace is without substance if words are not matched by deeds.
The situation in Darfur presents such an opportunity. There is a direct connection — financial, military, political and strategic — between this year’s Olympic host, China, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur that has been called the first genocide of the 21st century.
Entering its sixth year, it is unclear how many have died from the conflict between the Arab-dominated government in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and the non-Arab tribes of the region of Darfur. Most estimates say there have been at least 200,000 casualties, though that is likely an undercount. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced.
As we speak, humanitarian aid is scaling back because the situation is so dangerous for aid workers. If there is no protection for the delivery of food and medicine, there is no aid.
And so, in addition to the recent spike in government and Janjaweed attacks that killed so many, most Darfurians are now dying a slow death of starvation and disease.
What does Darfur have to do with the International Olympic Committee? The IOC chose this year’s Olympic host, China. China is underwriting the genocide in Darfur. And the IOC has remained silent.
“Respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” is what the IOC’s Charter demands. When awarding the Olympics to China, the IOC said the Games would serve to “open up” China to the world on human rights issues. In fact, China’s promise to improve its record on human rights issues was reportedly part of Beijing’s pitch to the International Olympic Committee to win the privilege of hosting the Games.
Yet as the Games approach, the IOC has proven reluctant to mention, much less address, the human rights complaints about China. It was only recently, following large protests that dogged the Olympic Torch Relay in London and Paris, that the IOC President Jacques Rogge called for the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue. Responding only to the squeakiest wheel, Rogge ignored the plight of Darfur.
And so has China. Despite intense international scrutiny, China has not yet substantially altered its mutually beneficial relationship with Khartoum, nor used its leverage to increase security for the citizens of Darfur.
Instead, China has condemned anyone who has dared to raise such issues — including the IOC. Shortly after Rogge, in his first — and tepid — comment about Tibet, made mention of a need for “moral engagement” by China, high-ranking Chinese officials publicly reprimanded him, saying the IOC should “stay out of politics.”
The Olympic Charter clearly claims that Olympic sport exists in the service of a better, more peaceful mankind, stating: “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
There is still time for the IOC to make a difference and live up to its ideals. The IOC should immediately employ the singular tool available to it, the Olympic Truce, with respect to Darfur. The Truce calls for a cessation of hostilities for a period before, during and after the Games. To implement the Olympic Truce for the 2008 Games, the IOC should call on the UN Security Council to implement the full deployment of UN Resolution 1769 immediately so that civilians will be protected in Darfur before the Games commence.
The IOC has said that the Olympic Truce is symbolic — it stands for an idea. That’s exactly right.
If the IOC takes such an action, its leaders will be able to say it upholds the standards and principles entrusted to them by athletes and the world community.
If the IOC remains silent on Darfur, the leader of the Olympic movement will have proven itself unworthy of continuing to guard the Olympic flame.