Prince Charles will not attend Beijing Olympics

By Andrew Hough

Prince Charles will not be attending the Beijing Olympics, his office confirmed on Monday, a move that was hailed by pro-Tibet campaigners but labelled "unfair" by Games organisers.

The Prince of Wales is a long-standing supporter of Tibet and its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

In 2004, he hosted a reception at his St James's Palace residence in honour of the Dalai Lama, who has been in exile since an uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The prince, who infamously wrote in his diaries during the 1997 handover of Hong Kong that senior Chinese officials were "appalling old waxworks", revealed his Olympic decision in a letter to the Free Tibet organisation.

In the letter, his deputy private secretary, Clive Alderton, said Charles would not attend the opening ceremony.

"As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in Tibet and indeed has been pleased to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions," Alderton wrote, according to a Free Tibet spokesman, who declined to release a copy of the letter.

He said Alderton then added that the prince would not be attending the opening ceremony but did not give a reason.

A spokeswoman for the Prince's office, Clarence House, confirmed he would not be attending the Olympics but declined to elaborate.

"There are no plans for the Prince of Wales to attend the Beijing Olympics," she said. Asked why he would not be attending she replied: "We don't discuss invitations that may or may not have been made, and also any trips abroad are taken on (advice) from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

A spokeswoman for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Wang Hui, told a news conference in Beijing on Monday that any decision to boycott was unfair.

"We haven't heard that Prince Charles will boycott or will not participate in the Beijing Olympics," he said.

"We consider any boycotts of the Olympic Games to be unfair. The Olympics is a harmonious, competitive and beneficial sports event as well as a significant festival for all the people in the world."

A spokesman for Free Tibet said: "We welcome the principled decision of Prince Charles not to go to the Olympics and call on other public figures and politicians to follow suit."

A Foreign Office spokesman declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Beijing. Editing by Stephen Addison)