Steven Spielberg shuns Olympic role

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London, Feb 13 : Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has backed out from his role as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The 'ET' director released a statement in which he accused China of not taking enough measures to pressurise its ally Sudan to end the "continuing human suffering" in the troubled western Darfur region.

The region has been under a conflict for the past 5 years and has led to the killing of 200,000 people, and forced around 2 million from their homes.

The 61-year-old director's move has been welcomed by Human Rights Watch, which said that it should induce the same spirit in other corporate sponsors to press for reform.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur. Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these on-going crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more," BBC quoted Spielberg, as stating in his statement.

Sudan, has one of the largest oil reserves in the world and sells almost two-thirds of its oil to Beijing. In return of this, the Chinese capital sells weapons to the Sudanese government and has defended Khartoum in the UN Security Council.

This has led to a criticism against China for its links with a government ostracised by many for its role in the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

In fact, Human Rights Watch proposed that corporate sponsors, governments and National Olympic Committees should urge Beijing to improve human rights conditions.

"Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders - especially those planning to attend the Games - can't pretend otherwise. These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle," said Minky Worden.

Recently, as part of a "Global Day of Action" focusing on Darfur, an open letter signed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates and former Olympians was sent to China's president.

"We are all aware of the tremendous potential for China to help bring an end to the conflict in Darfur," said the letter.

The letter was delivered to the Chinese mission to the United Nations by actress Mia Farrow and former Olympic swimmers Shannon Shakespeare and Nikki Dryden.

Farrow was the one who pushed Spielberg to put a stop to his involvement, saying that his decision sent out the right signal to the Chinese Government.

"I'm delighted by his decision and it's a desperate time for Darfur so this is a shred of good news in a very bleak week. Through his participation with the games it was clear that he was giving his moral cover to Beijing at a time when they're underwriting genocide in Darfur. So I hoped that he would discontinue his participation with the games," she said.

ANI

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