November 26, 2007 / 10:43 PM / 12 years ago

Olympic sponsors faulted for inactivity on Darfur

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thirteen of 19 big corporate Olympic sponsors have flunked a test challenging them to pressure China over the 2008 Olympic Games host’s support of Sudan, a U.S. advocacy group said on Monday.

General Electric won the best grade of C-plus, largely for making contact with the International Olympic Committee to raise concerns regarding Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region, the group Dream for Darfur said.

None of the companies reported making a direct plea to Chinese officials, said the group, which spent 16 weeks from May to October surveying the sponsors.

Dream for Darfur said it graded them on whether they took steps to influence or contact China or the International Olympic Committee, donated aid to Darfur or appointed a point person on Darfur, among other criteria.

Two companies — McDonalds and Adidas — won average grades of C.

“Our major conclusions were that the corporate Olympic sponsors are engaged in a form of silent complicity with the Chinese government in its support of genocide,” said Ellen Freudenheim, who conducted research for the project.

Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and UPS received a D and 13 companies got an F due to inaction.

They were: Atos Origin, Lenovo, Manulife, Panasonic, Samsung, Swatch, Anheuser-Busch, BHP Billiton, Eastman Kodak, Microsoft, Staples, Visa and Volkswagen.

None of the firms reported contacting the Chinese government, which would have earned them 25 points on the 100-point test. Freudenheim acknowledged some companies might not have wanted to publicly reveal any contacts.

“They might have said something to somebody out on the golf course, or they might have said nothing at all,” she said.

Violence in the Darfur region of Sudan has killed some 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes in the past four years.

After mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting their arid region, the region was hit by rape, looting, murder and government bombardment.

Human rights advocates have blamed the Sudanese government and by extension China, which buys oil from Sudan and has been protective of its government in matters before the U.N. Security Council, where China can veto any resolution.

“There is no way Khartoum could thumb its nose at the entire international community and the United Nations as well without the full knowledge that it is being backed by China,” said actress Mia Farrow, a Darfur activist who joined Dream for Darfur on a conference call explaining the survey.

Khartoum has labeled the Western campaigns as a hostile attempt to exaggerate the crisis.

The Olympics open on August 8.

Editing by Xavier Briand

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