Games chiefs put focus on human rights

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am
 

Chinese government officials planning to attend next year's London Olympics can expect a frosty reception from UK Games chiefs if the erosion of Beijing's Olympic legacy continues.

The chief executive of the London Olympics organising committee, Paul Deighton, says he is a fan of Ai Weiwei, the mainland artist being detained at an unknown location for alleged economic crimes.

'I am very aware of [what's happened to] Ai Weiwei. I am a collector of his work. I have just bought one of his marble chairs,' Deighton said. 'He makes these beautiful marble chairs and we were able to pick one up. My views on Ai Weiwei are quite strong personally, but I am not able to comment.'

Ai was the co-designer of the showcase Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium. But he has since fallen foul of the authorities for his outspoken criticism of Beijing's human rights record, and was taken away by police when he tried to board a plane bound for Hong Kong on April 3.

London mayor Boris Johnson, who was criticised by mainland officials for his scruffy appearance at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, also lashed out this week at the Beijing government. In a UK newspaper editorial, he said the world 'must speak out' over Ai's detention.

'Just because China is a superpower doesn't mean we should be afraid of criticising it. Mr Ai is an internationally famous artist, and it is untenable to claim that locking him up is a purely internal matter,' he wrote.

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