Pelosi Calls on President Bush to Secure Entry of Joey Cheek to Beijing Olympic Games

Former Sudanese Refugee and Darfur Activist to Carry U.S. Flag During Opening Ceremony
Fox News – August 7, 2008

The United States Olympics team has chosen former refugee from Sudan and Team Darfur member Lopez Lomong to carry the flag at the Olympics opening ceremony, AFP reports.

Lomong, 23, who qualified in the 1,500m on the final day of the US trials last month, was chosen as the flag-bearer on Wednesday, when U.S. captains in every sport met at the Olympic Village to vote.

The decision comes days after Olympic gold-medalist Joey Cheek, the founder of Team Darfur, a group of global athletes who work to raise awareness of the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, had his visa to visit China revoked.

Speaker Pelosi released the following statement after the Chinese government revoked his visa:

“The Chinese government's decision to bar Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek from attending the Olympics because of his advocacy for Darfur is reprehensible. This action by Beijing's leaders is part of an orchestrated campaign to deny entry to individuals because of their political views, beliefs, writings, association, religion, and ethnicity.

“In the coming days, President Bush will arrive in Beijing. I call on President Bush to secure the entry of Joey Cheek and other U.S. citizens who have been barred from attending the Olympics because of their beliefs, advocacy for the people of Darfur and human rights in China and Tibet. It is essential that President Bush show leadership in promoting democracy, freedom, and human rights during his visit to China.

“The Olympic Charter states that 'Any form of discrimination with regard to a country of a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.' The International Olympic Committee is tolerating clear violations of both the Olympic ideals and the commitments the Chinese government made in order to host the Olympic Games.

“Like many Americans, I recall when Joey Cheek won the Gold Medal in 2006 and donated his prize to the children of Darfur. Joey is a magnificent athlete and an optimistic young man, and is to be commended for his advocacy and humanitarianism for the people in Darfur. It is simply wrong for him to be banned from attending the Olympic Games.”

Joey Cheek testified at an Oversight Committee hearing on Darfur and the Olympics last year:

Joey Cheek:
“I think it’s also important to point out that, by choosing to host an Olympics, China in particular looks to use this as their coronation on the world stage. They are an enormously developing nation, they’re going to be a world power, if they’re not yet, very shortly. And you don’t get to host the Olympics, you don’t get to this great event, with all the glow and all the good feelings that come along with it without accepting the responsibility of what you’re proclaiming.”