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IOC rejects Tibet's Beijing Games participation

December 11, 2007

By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Dec 10, 2007 (Reuters) - The International
Olympic Committee on Monday rejected a Tibetan request to field a team
for next year's Beijing Olympics, as some 100 Tibetans and supporters
demonstrated outside the IOC headquarters.

"The IOC is not in a position to accept our application," Wangpo
Tethong, chairman of the unofficial Tibetan National Olympic Committee,
told reporters after a brief meeting with IOC administrators.

"Of course we are disappointed that our athletes will not participate,"
he said.

Tibet has been ruled by China with an iron fist since 1950 when
Communist troops invaded.

Tethong said they were told in the meeting with IOC administrators that
Olympic committees from regions that were not recognised as sovereign
states could not take part in the Games.

In a demonstration outside the building some 100 demonstrators, athletes
of Team Tibet and supporters, unfurled a large red banner painted as a
wall and called on the IOC to "break its wall of silence".

Leading IOC members were inside for a three-day executive board meeting.

Demonstrators braved pouring rain, shouting slogans including "Free
Tibet" and "Justice for Tibet" as a delegation of three, including
Tethong and two athletes, were briefly allowed to meet IOC officials for
the first time since applying in August to join.

The IOC has been under mounting pressure as criticism over China's human
rights record grows some nine months before the Games.
The Tibetan team currently comprises some 30 athletes, all exiled.

"I know none of them will win a gold medal, that's for sure, but they
meet the standard of the Olympics," Tethong said.

He accused Beijing Games organisers of pressuring the IOC to avoid any
discussion on their demand.

Tethong said he would now seek to "enlarge our base of supporters".

"We all agree that rules are made by man and so can be changed. Maybe
see you again in the London Olympics in 2012," he said. (Writing by
Karolos Grohmann; editing by Miles Evans)
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