Athletes reject calls for Olympics boycott, protests in Beijing

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 24, 2008 (AFP) – Athletes from national Olympic Committees on Thursday rejected any boycott of the Beijing Games and said sport should be kept separate from politics despite China’s poor human rights record. “We are all of the wholehearted belief that boycotts are pointless and senseless — and only hurt the athletes,” the 15 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Athlete Commission said in a statement.

“With so many issues and conflicts in our world, if we allow our event to be the place to raise them, this would change the essence of what we are there to do — to compete athlete against athlete in a spirit of respect, friendship and fair play,” the statement said.

The Athlete Commission held their meeting in a Lausanne hotel to discuss how to respond to what they called the “challenging international backdrop into which the Olympic Games have been drawn in recent weeks.”

Commission member and former Soviet pole vault champion Sergey Bubka told journalists he still rued being forced to miss the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles due to Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow.

“I missed in ’84 but for me it’s still more painful than 20 years ago because it’s not freedom o