BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia – Amid escalating violence in and around Tibet, the message from across Europe was clear: “Let the games begin.”\nEuropean nations and Olympic committees said Monday they opposed a boycott of the Beijing Games over China’s handling of the unrest in Tibet. And most everyone else who spoke out, from Russia to Australia, echoed that approach.\n“Under no circumstance will we support the boycott. We are 100 percent unanimous,” Patrick Hickey, the head of the European Olympic Committees, told The Associated Press.\nThe EU sports ministers and Olympic committees said sports should not be linked to such a political issue and that previous Olympic boycotts had limited impact.\n“Not one world leader has come out with the suggestion of a boycott and no less a person than the Dalai Lama” is against it, Hickey said. “A boycott is only a punishment of the athletes.”\nSlovene Sports Minister Milan Zver, who is chairing a meeting of top EU sports officials from the 27 member states and Olympic committees, said it was no different on the government side. \n“I am against a boycott of the Olympic Games in China,” Zver said.\nChristiane Hohmann, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive commission, said “such a boycott would not be the appropriate way” to voice concerns of human rights or rights of those in Tibet.\nWorld 50-meter butterfly champion Roland Schoeman, however, supports calls for the International Olympic Committee to take a stand.\nThe committee “should stand up and say, ‘The way these people are being treated is not acceptable,’” the South African swimmer said. “Either you put an end to this or else. The ‘or else’ could be extreme or it could be a set \nof conditions.”\nRussia warned against turning the Beijing Olympics into a political game.\n“We would like to underscore that efforts to politicize the holding of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China are unacceptable,” the government said.\nErica Terpstra, the head of the Dutch Olympic Committee, said it is wrong to burden sports with such problems, and “it really has to be for the politicians.”\n“There was no call for a boycott whatsoever, even though there is great concern about what happens there,” Terpstra added. “And I have an additional concern: ‘keep your hands off my athletes.’”\nOn Monday, Tibet’s governor promised leniency to anti-Chinese protesters who turned themselves in before the end of the day, as troops fanned out to quell sympathy protests that have spread to three neighboring provinces.\nThe fiercest protests against Chinese rule in almost two decades have embarrassed China’s communist government and hurt its efforts to have a smooth run-up to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.\nEurope has never questioned the right for the Chinese to stage the games. On Friday, a summit of EU leaders criticized China’s response to demonstrations in Tibet but did not threaten a boycott on human rights grounds.\nTogay Bayatli, president of the Turkish Olympic Committee, stressed it was up to business leaders and politicians to take the initiative.\n“Our countries are doing business there,” Bayatli said. “Everybody is going there.”\nEconomic relations between the 27-nation EU and China are moving closer. Bilateral trade doubled between 2000-05 and reached $370 billion in 2006. Europe is China’s largest export market and China is Europe’s prime source of imports.\nZver has argued that political pressure through sports doesn’t work, saying the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games was largely ineffectual at a political level. At the same time, it badly hurt the Olympic movement.\n“Sport is tool of dialogue,” Zver said.
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