February 14, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan’s Olympic Committee expressed regret Thursday after Hollywood director Steven Spielberg pulled out as adviser to the Beijing Olympics over China’s record in Darfur.
“We have always been against politics creeping into sport and we have never mixed the two,” committee head and retired general Salah Mohammed Saleh told AFP.
“Nothing harms the sporting spirit more than politics,” he said in response to Spielberg’s decision, saying the Sudanese Olympic Committee stands “above any political interference”.
“This is the only activity in Sudan completely free of any political interference and the only activity that unites all Sudanese,” he added.
“We are not paying much attention to Spielberg. We have strategic relations with Chinese sports bodies and our athletes are going ahead with preparations for the Olympic Games,” Saleh said.
China, a close ally of the Sudanese government, also regretted Spielberg’s decision and defended Beijing’s involvement with the African country.
Nobel Prize winners and Olympic athletes critical of Beijing’s record on Darfur have also complained to Chinese President Hu Jintao.
China is a major economic partner and supplier of arms to Sudan, which is in turn accused of backing Arab militia forces responsible for much of the Darfur violence.
Beijing consistently responds to attacks on its record in Sudan by defending its support for Khartoum and accusing its attackers of prejudice against China.