Human Rights Issues Raised and Activists Shut Out

According to an email received by this writer from journalist Manfred Becker, writing about yesterday's University of Toronto conference on Olympic Reform, a keynote address by South Africa IOC member Sam Ramsamy focused on "all the good things the IOC is doing, like working with Amnesty International."

Audience questions to Ramsamy about the IOC's flip-flops on human rights abuses in China drew a response that "it's all about sports," in turn eliciting a pointed comment from IOC critic Andrew Jennings that this was "a lot of bullocks."

UBC's Rob VanWynsberghe told Becker that "even though UBC is officially working with VANOC on the sanctioned sustainability study, he (VanWynsberghe) has "given up on VANOC."

The Toronto activists who yesterday picketed the opening of the conference on Olympic Reform claimed that they achieved their main goal of drawing public attention to the potential impact of Toronto's bid for the 2015 Pan American Games, by linking it to criticisms of Vancouver's 2010 preparations.

According to Oriel Varga, a spokesperson for the activists, protesters were told by campus police "that protest and banners are not allowed on U of T property." Inside the conference, Varga, who had registered for the meeting, was initially told by meeting organizers that she had been "de-registered" for picketing.

Eventually getting into a session entitled 'Philosophical Approaches to Olympism and Olympic Reforn', Varga and other speakers asked how the the official spirit of Olympism fit into various issues associated with Vancouver's 2010 Winter Games.

According to Varga, her questions to presenters focused on "gender and sport and the flow of information from organizers to community, and pointed out the charter rights issues with respect to the women Sky Jumpers, the bylaw signs, violations of rights of homeless and marginalized, and the fact that even at an Olympic Reform conference there are threats for holding up a banner."

The conference ends today with a final presentation by Andrew Jennings whose past writings have focused on IOC corruption.
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