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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Political pressure may be behind Dalai Lama's canceled visit

January 23, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Alyson Oten/KTVB
BOISE -- Just two weeks before the beginning of the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, there is controversy over an invited dignitary.
The questions are being raised by an insider and surround the Dalai Lama.
In September, the Dalai Lama was invited and accepted an invitation to the opening ceremonies, but later we were told he would not be attending.
The reasons were vague and now some think political pressure played a part.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has visited our area before in the fall of 2005.  In fact, it was this celebrated visit to Sun Valley that inspired Jim Grossman and his wife to launch an ambitious bid for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
"That was something we envisioned early on and this started with his visit to Idaho, so he helped plant this seed," said Grossman.
The Grossmans consider the Dalai Lama a personal friend and invited him to return to Idaho in February for the opening ceremonies of the World Winter Games.  He accepted, but then we learned the Dalai Lama would not attend.
"The invitation was extended and offered and you'd have to check with the Dalai Lama's folks to find out the reasoning there," said Brady Lum, Special Olympics International.
Brady Lum is President and COO of the Special Olympics International.  We asked him about rumblings that political pressure from China derailed the Dalai Lama's plans.
"Special Olympics and the World Games in particular are always about acceptance, inclusion and dignity of all peoples, so there have been no issues from the Chinese in particular," said Lum.
But off the record, several sources close to the games have contradicted that.  The first public pronouncement comes today from Sara Bronfman, heiress to the Seagram's fortune and honorary board member for the World Winter Games.
In a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express she claims the Dalai Lama was "disinvited."
"It is my understanding that the only reason His Holiness is no longer coming to the Special Olympics is because his invitation was withdrawn," she said.  "I will feel it necessary to formally resign from the honorary board and personally boycott the games."
"Frankly, if it really came down to it, if none of the VIPs or none of the celebrities are here this is what it's about," said Grossman.
With just two weeks to go, Grossman and those at the international level are trying to keep the focus on the athletes.  Which, according to sources, may be exactly what the Dalai Lama was trying to do by not attending.
"Was there a situation that prompted him to say, ‘I don't want to be a distraction?’" asked NewsChannel 7.
"I can imagine that.  I think that if he was afraid that his presence could impair even one athlete the experience so many athletes have through Special Olympics, I wouldn't be surprised if that was his feeling," said Grossman.
We’ve tried to personally speak with Sara Bronfman for several days, but have been unable to reach her.
Her full-time residence is in New York, but she does have a home in Ketchum, which is how she's so closely connected to Grossmans and the World Winter Games.
Meanwhile, in a written statement, the Special Olympics said this letter to the editor "reflects a deep misunderstanding about the situation."  It also reiterated the hope that the world's attention will remain on the athletes.
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