- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2008

The International Olympic Committee‘s thuggishness is marring the Beijing Olympics beyond already low expectations. The committee, like Beijing, seems to think that there is “no news” beyond the athletic exploits. It has been holding press conferences with alarming infrequency and bristles at the prospect of discussing all but the most scripted subjects.

Indeed, the committee is little more than an arm of Beijing’s propaganda machine at this point. First, the IOC agreed not to publish air-quality data at the request of Chinese authorities - predictable enough. Then it began to evade, ignore or otherwise dismiss real questions from foreign media before it canceled two press conferences.

Thus, there was no comment on the Swedish wrestler whose medal was stripped. Nor was there comment on a Greek gold medalist who tested positive for drugs. Heaven forbid that foreign reporters should ask about Chinese human rights, the removal of Uighur residents of the capital, fake fireworks, fake minority children or media restrictions. Many foreign journalists cannot even access overseas commentary on the Games via the Internet - as the usual blocked Western news and advocacy Web sites remain blocked.

Owing to a schedule conflict with Michael Phelps’ historic, ultimately successful bid for an eighth medal, a press conference was canceled. It was not rescheduled because a “convenient” time for the Beijing Organizing Committee could not be settled. The next press conference would not be held until Monday. A coincidence, or breathing room?

The list goes on. There is at least a modicum of evidence that committee members are privately embarrassed. Here’s what one member told the New York Times last month. “”Had the IOC, and those vested with the decision to award the host city contract, known seven years ago that there would be severe restrictions on people being able to enter China simply to watch the Olympics, or that live broadcasting from Tiananmen Square would essentially be banned, or that reporters would be corralled at the whim of local security, then I seriously doubt whether Beijing would have been awarded the Olympics.”

For future games, the International Olympic Committee must establish better ground rules if the host government is undemocratic. Better yet, the International Olympic Committee should avoid such hosts in the first place.

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