Chinese Olympics officials broke their silence Thursday on Steven Spielberg’s decision to quit as artistic director of the Beijing Games.
In a defiant statement, they said they regretted he wasn’t taking part but insisted they would stage an excellent Olympics anyway.
While few are talking about boycotting the Games, which start on Aug. 8, the focus now turns to see how sponsors react to the possibility that the Games will generate poor publicity for their brands.
In line with previous comments about human-rights defenders tying political issues to the greatest sporting show on Earth, Beijing officials blamed those activists with unspecified “ulterior motives” for trying to spoil the Games for everyone.
The tone of the Chinese response, which came after two days of reflection in the corridors of power about how to deal with the Spielberg setback, is best described as a combination of defiance, nationalistic resolve and a feeling of being unfairly picked on.
“It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters at a news briefing. (Spielberg quit over these policies Tuesday.) “But I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept.”
China, the biggest customer for Sudan’s oil, is under pressure to force the Sudanese government to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
Liu emphasized China’s concern about Darfur but insisted that China had been playing a positive role in promoting peace there.
After a few high-profile demonstrations by human-rights groups at the start of the one-year countdown, Spielberg’s move to quit as spectacle adviser is the first test of how China plans to defend itself against critics who say it is using the Games as a propaganda exercise.
Beijing is sticking to the agreed text on the Olympic spirit.
“Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic spirit that separates sports from politics,” the Beijing Olympic org BOCOG said in an email.