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Games spur little progress on human rights

The Olympic Committee and China linked the Games to reforms that have gone unfulfilled.

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Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, says he has “no regrets” over his organization’s controversial decision seven years ago to award this summer’s Olympic Games to Beijing.

But as he surveys the IOC’s failure to hold the Chinese authorities to their human rights pledges, he expects that “the magic of the Games and [Beijing’s] flawless organization will take over” from the scandals that have dogged the preparations for the 2008 Olympics.

“It was naive to think that there would be any major changes in Chinese politics” because of the Olympics, says Ove Karlsson, an Olympic historian. “Once they’ve awarded the Games, the IOC doesn’t have any real power” to influence the host government, he adds.

Beijing marks the first time that IOC officials have explicitly linked the Olympics to political reform. In South Korea, the 1988 Seoul Games are often cited as one of the spurs toward that country’s democratization.

But never before had the IOC – often in the face of criticism – deliberately defended the choice of an Olympic host city by pointing to political and social changes that choice would supposedly engender.

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