LEADER: Take politics out of the Olympic debate

Steven Spielberg is wrong to link the Olympic Games to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. This at least is the view of Hill & Knowlton, which is handling the PR for the Beijing organising committee, along with many other commentators on this fascinating issue of ethics.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

Many NGOs disagree strongly, however. Lobby group Dream for Darfur is organising a hard-hitting campaign around this summer's games, while Amnesty International continues to target sports journalists on human rights issues.

Either way it is a reputational crisis for the Chinese government. China is keen to focus the world's gaze on its fast-modernising capital city, but is being forced to acknowledge worldwide concern over its ethics.

Word has it that Hill & Knowlton's ultimate boss, the ever-pragmatic WPP chairman Martin Sorrell, is personally advising the Chinese on such issues.

He may point out there is a certain hypocrisy in the world awarding the games - via the supposedly representative and democratic International Olympic Committee - to China, and then throwing up its arms six months before the Olympic Flame arrives.

He may also stress that the Olympics are supposed to be one month, every four years, when people set aside political differences to celebrate sporting endeavour.

These are strong arguments. While China would be wise to listen, and moderate its policies to the wider world to which it belongs, it probably should try to separate the event itself from hard diplomacy.

That said, it seems reasonable that NGOs should use the Olympics as a vehicle with which to raise awareness of their battles against injustice.

If brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's can cash in on this great sporting event - and Sorrell's firm is the first to see an uplift in its revenues as a result - then why shouldn't much less well-funded charities create their own stunts, stories and campaigns?

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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