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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 20:30 GMT
IOC backs China human rights push
Francois Carrard
Carrard disagrees with those criticising the Beijing Olympics
The Beijing Olympics will help to improve the human rights situation in China, says a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official.

Francois Carrard, a former IOC director general, says the intense spotlight of this summer's games will force China's government to enhance its reputation.

"If the Games were not awarded to China the (human rights) situation would not have progressed," he told BBC Sport.

"This is a contribution to progress, an accelerating factor."

China's human rights record has been under scrutiny ever since Beijing was awarded the Olympics in 2001, and the IOC pledged to monitor the situation.

Campaigners say China has not fulfilled its promise to make improvements in the build-up to the Games, but the Chinese government flatly denies the accusation.

Speaking to BBC sports editor Mihir Bose, Carrard - the IOC's legal advisor - admitted it might not be possible to identify any advances in the immediate future but maintained his optimism that the benefits would be felt in the long-term future.

I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if China had not been awarded the Games - there is interest from the media and people concerned by what are very important issues

Francois Carrard
IOC legal advisor

"The monitoring has gone on ever since (Beijing was awarded the Games)," said Carrard. "Human rights is an overwhelming concern for all IOC members.

"The issue of human rights is not satisfactory in many countries around the world today, not only in China.

"But I'm convinced that when we look at this with the perspective of history we will see that the Olympic Games will have been an opportunity for considerable progress.

"Whether we can judge this now, just before the Games, after the Games or well after the Games remains to be seen."

Carrard urged observers to be patient in looking for improvements and pointed out that China, a country with the world's largest population, is somewhat unique.

"One must never forget that China has a time-frame which is totally difference from the rest of the world and progress can not always be measured by the same time standard," he said.

Beijing Olympics protestors
Protestors vent their displeasure at the 2008 Olympics

"We want immediate progress, we want things to happen within the next six months or a year but China has another pace."

The IOC always felt it could not keep the Games away from the world's most populated country, but opposition has intensified in recent months.

Earlier this month, film director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic advisor to the event, accusing China of not doing enough to pressure Sudan to end the "continuing human suffering" in the troubled western Darfur region.

Meanwhile, a coalition of international athletes has been formed under the name Team Darfur and is campaigning heavily in the lead-up to the Games.

606: DEBATE

But the fact that there is debate about China's human rights record is seen by the IOC as vindication of their decision to awarded Beijing the Games, according to Bose.

"That is not a concern to me," says Carrard. "These voices are raised by people who have another agenda and other concerns which I fully respect. But I still feel they are wrong.

"I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if China had not been awarded the Games - there is interest from the media and people concerned by what are very important issues.

"I respect what Mr Spielberg says but, respectfully, I totally disagree with him."

SEE ALSO
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