PARIS (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge cannot speak in detail about human rights in China for diplomatic reasons, he said in an interview on Saturday.
“Of course I unquestionably value human rights,” he was quoted as saying in French sports weekly L‘Equipe Magazine.
“Reasons of State (raison d‘Etat) forbids me to express myself in detail on that subject,” he said in an interview two weeks before the start of the Beijing Games.
”I have to be careful about what I do and what I say. I am at the head of an organization. My duty is to make the Olympics a success and let the athletes express themselves freely. I am criticized. And I answer that I am ready to take blows in order to protect the athletes.
“In view of my responsibilities, I have lost some of my freedom of speech,” the Belgian said.
The Olympics are scheduled to open in Beijing on August 8. China has faced concerted pressure from the West on its policy towards Tibet, human rights violations and freedom of the press.
In April, Rogge asked the West to stop hectoring China over human rights and said he favored respectful and quiet but firm discussion.
Concerns were also raised that some government leaders planned to boycott the Games’ opening ceremony as a show of protest against the Chinese government.
“I call it hypocrisy when I hear a politician demanding a boycott of the Beijing Olympics when he is not even considering for one second calling back his ambassador or ceasing trade and cultural exchanges (with China),” Rogge said.
“Why should sport have to pay for the rest? It is unacceptable.”
Rogge guaranteed athletes would be able to protest and express themselves everywhere “except in stadiums and inside the Olympic village”.
He said they were free to express themselves “in press areas, news conferences, TV sets, in the street, etc.”
Rogge also answered criticism about the IOC and claims that there was too much money involved in the Olympics.
“When I was elected (in July 2001), I immediately agreed that the IOC had to improve, for fear of losing its credibility,” he said.
”From the outset, I created an internal commission on ethics and I demanded transparency of our financial flows, which can be verified to the last dollar.
“The Games, to put things clearly, yield 4.5 billion euros ($7.07 billion) per cycle. Not one of those euros comes from taxpayers. Television and sponsors are the only ones who pay for the Olympics.”
He argued the IOC gave back 94 percent of its profits to organization committees and sports federations.
Rogge also assured that the IOC was in the front line of the battle against doping.
“Concerning sport, I accelerated the fight against doping. There will be 4,500 tests in Beijing,” he said.
(Writing by Diane Falconer, editing by Rex Gowar)