Britain’s Brown will not attend Olympics opening: office

LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Downing Street said Wednesday, adding that he had never intended to do so.

“He’s never been going to the Olympic opening ceremony. We have always said he’s going to the closing ceremony,” a spokeswoman for his office told AFP.

She said that there had been “no change” in Brown’s plans for the games, which start in August.

Brown has previously ruled out boycotting the games, saying that he would attend the Olympics “as many others will do”.

“The Dalai Lama himself has said that he does not want to see a boycott of the Olympics and that is why I have said as the host country for the 2012 Olympics that is coming up that I will attend,” he said last week.

There were chaotic scenes in London Sunday as the Olympic torch parade through the city was dogged by protests, with one demonstrator even attempting to grab the torch from a celebrity carrier.

Brown greeted the torch parade outside his Downing Street office but has faced heavy criticism from some quarters for allegedly going easy on China over its human rights record.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said that greeting the torch was in no way an endorsement of China’s human rights record, which has been widely criticised by organisations such as Amnesty International.

London will host the Olympics in 2012.

More than 40 percent of British people are opposed to Brown attending the Olympic opening ceremony, according to a survey conducted for television station Channel 4, details of which were released Wednesday.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that his country’s participation in the opening ceremony would be linked to China starting talks with Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

And earlier Wednesday, US President George W. Bush urged China to “begin a dialogue” with representatives of the Dalai Lama as part of efforts to quiet the situation in Tibet.

The Olympic torch parade was facing fresh protests as it passes through San Francisco Wednesday, with one young male pro-Tibet protestor arrested after a noisy standoff.

During its journey through Paris Monday the flame was snuffed out by officials five times amid turbulent scenes.;_ylt=AjzmT6OwIcwbHvCNibI2IIaSFs0F


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