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February 13, 2008
Steven Spielberg Pulls out of China Olympics
Citing Chinese inaction in helping to resolve the agony in Darfur, Steven Spielberg has pulled out as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics:
His move is a public relations blow to the Chinese government, which is under pressure to force the government of Sudan to resolve the crisis in Darfur. China has been running interference at the United Nations for Sudan for years while selling them weapons and technology.
Spielberg's worldwide profile could lead others involved in the Games to pull out and even lead sponsors to reconsider their roles in the event. As the biggest customer for Sudan's oil, China has been the target of Darfur advocates for the better part of a year, much to the dismay of Chinese officials who have complained that the Games were being politicized.
"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," Spielberg said. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."
Spielberg was to join a team led by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, but outside of a visit to Beijing a year ago, he had done little work on the event. He even noted in his statement that he has yet to sign a contract that the Beijing Organizing Committee sent to him a year ago.
And Spielberg has hit the Chinese in a very sensitive spot. The Communists see these Olympics as their coming out party as a full member of the world community. After nearly 60 years of isolation, the games were supposed to announce to the world that China was back and was going to be an important player in world affairs. Now, not only do they have to worry about fallout from Spielberg's departure, but even some big sponsors are starting to get nervous:
On Tuesday, Farrow said that she "couldn't be happier at a more hopeless moment." She also predicted that sponsors and supporters of the Games would follow in pressuring the Chinese government. Farrow didn't mention that China has also begun a merciless crack down on dissent and initiated draconian internet protocols that track users who criticize the government. In addition to Darfur, there will also be protests for Tibetan independence and China's horrific environmental record.
"This is exactly what China didn't want -- they don't want their games sullied," she said. "No spitting on the ground, no chewing gum, and now the most famous director in the world has said he can't participate in their Olympics as a matter of conscience. This is huge. It is a defining moment for China. China and China alone has the power to influence Khartoum."
Let's see if NBC has the guts to cover these and other controversies that are bound to arise during the games. The Chinese have proven in the past they are not above simply pulling the plug if things get too hot politically.