March 28, 2008 / 5:58 PM / 11 years ago

Rice says boycott of 1980 Olympics was "feckless"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games was “feckless” and sees no benefit to shunning the Beijing Olympics because of China’s handling of violence in Tibet.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Rice said it would be “insulting” to the Chinese people if Washington boycotted either the opening ceremony or the Games themselves.

“I don’t see the benefit of boycotting. I do not,” said Rice in a transcript of the interview released by the State Department on Friday.

Rice, an avid sports fan, said such a gesture would also betray athletes. “I see it as keeping faith with athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity and shouldn’t be denied it.”

The United States led a boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that was joined by about 60 countries including China.

Rice criticized the 1980 decision, which led to the Soviet Union and most of its eastern bloc allies boycotting the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“I do not think the boycott of the ‘80 Olympics was very effective. In fact, I think it looked feckless,” she said.

“They (the Russians) invade Afghanistan, and the best you can think of is to boycott the Olympics and keep athletes who have been training for their entire lives from going and competing? Who were we kidding?” she added.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has left open the possibility he might not attend the opening ceremony in Beijing Olympics because of the way China has handled unrest in Tibet.

But Rice said when the Olympic Games was awarded to Beijing, the world knew a number of issues had to be tackled and nations must engage the government about its “troublesome policies” rather than boycott the Games (Reporting by Sue Pleming, editing by Alan Elsner)

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