Aug 07, 2008, 06:31AM

No Olympics For Activist Athlete

Joey Cheek, a 2004 gold medal winner in speed skating, was planning on attending the Olympics in Beijing in his role as a human rights activist. He's organized a group of athletes protesting Chinese support of Darfur, and Chinese authorities decided they didn't want him around. His visa was revoked at the last minute. Here he speaks to his college newspaper about the situation.

Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek '11 said his visa to attend the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing has been revoked by the Chinese government over his efforts urging China to help make peace in the war-torn region of Darfur.

The 2006 speed skating champion co-founded Team Darfur, an organization of Olympic athletes who seek to draw attention to violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. China is a major consumer of oil produced in Sudan.

Cheek had planned to travel to Beijing this week to support the hundreds of athletes from around the world who have signed on as supporters of Team Darfur.

"I got this sinking feeling and then the phone rings, and it's the Chinese consulate saying that your visa has been revoked," Cheek told The Daily Princetonian in an interview Wednesday morning. "We were kind of shocked. I had received visa approval over a month ago, and I get the call less than 24 hours before I was supposed to hop on a plane. I was shocked it was so close to when I was supposed to leave."

"This is one small example of a much broader effort by the Chinese government to pressure athletes to keep quiet on any sort of issue, to muzzle athletes whose only purpose is to help the people of Darfur," Cheek said. "It looks like the Chinese government has been making a systematic, global effort to keep athletes from saying anything at all."


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