US congress squares off over Beijing Olympic bid

At dueling Capitol Hill news conferences, the two sides made impassioned pleas that contrasted the right of an athlete to compete and the Olympic goal of promoting world peace, with concerns about China’s record on human rights.
Beijing is favored to win the right to host the 2008 Summer Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes on Friday. Its chief rivals are Toronto and Paris.
Several lawmakers and athletes argued the IOC should make its selection without the influence of politics.
“Just as athletes are not asking to write legislation, politicians should not be involved in the Olympic Games,” said Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state.
Others said Beijing should be denied the honor of hosting the Olympics because of China’s human rights record, and urged passage of nonbinding congressional resolutions that oppose Beijing’s bid to stage the Games.
“Turning a blind eye to the egregious human rights violations taking place every day in China does not remove politics from the Olympics,” said Rep. Tom Lantos of California, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives International Relations Committee.
“It permits an authoritarian regime to exploit the Games to prop up its faltering legitimacy by basking in the reflected glory of the Olympics,” Lantos said.
President George W. Bush, who has sought to expand trade with China, has remained neutral in the site selection.
Lantos, along with Reps. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, called on the House Republican leadership to permit a vote on a nonbinding resolution overwhelmingly approved by the International Relations Committee last March urging Olympic organizers to reject Beijing’s bid.
Joined by Dana Chladek, who won a silver medal in 1996 as a member of the U.S. white-water kayak team, they said the House should vote on the resolution before the IOC makes its decision.
On the other side of the Capitol, Murray and Sen. John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, urged adoption of their resolution that calls on Congress to stay out of the selection process.
“The U.S. Congress should not try to dictate where the Olympics should be held or should not be held,” Breaux said.
The two senators were joined by two former Olympians, Linda Miller, who was a member of the 2000 U.S. rowing team, and James Bergman, a member of the 1964 U.S. judo team.
Along with eight other former U.S. Olympians, Miller and Bergman signed a statement that read in part, “We strongly encourage the Congress not to pass any legislation regarding the 2008 Summer Games.”