The Team Darfur co-founder had planned to fly to China on Wednesday to join dozens of Beijing Olympics athletes who plan to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan... Cheek, a speedskating gold and silver medalist at the Turin Winter Olympics, had planned to attend the Beijing Games to help draw attention the ongoing genocide in Darfur.Cheek released a statement:
I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur. Team Darfur’s main efforts have been to advocate for an Olympic Truce for Darfur, and to raise awareness about the crisis and ask for lasting peace on behalf of the children of Darfur.
The Olympic Truce captures the spirit of the Olympics: around the Games, the world should come together to work for peace and speak out against conflict. The Chinese government’s efforts to suppress athletes, even those who are competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, who speak about essential human rights issues, is a violation of that core Olympic spirit.
The 2008 Olympic Games begin this Friday, August 8, in Beijing, China.