Tibetan exiles to stage mock Olympics in India

Tibetan exiles in India will be holding their maiden Olympics less than three months ahead of the Beijing Olympics to attract the attention of the international community to the occupation of their homeland, organizers said Wednesday. Tibetan Olympics, the unofficial Tibetan version of the event, will be held over four days beginning Thursday in the northern hill- town of Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan-government-in-exile. "We are not against the Beijing Olympics, in fact we support the games. What we are against are the policies of the Chinese government which is dividing and suppressing Tibetans in their own homeland and destroying Tibet's environment," the organizer Lobsang Wangyal said.

"The Tibetan Olympics are also aimed at providing an opportunity to Tibetan youth to display their talents since they have been deprived from the Olympics as our country is occupied," Wangyal said over telephone from Dharamsala.

A total of 23 athletes, 13 men and 10 women from various parts of India and Nepal will compete in 10 categories such as shooting, archery, swimming, long-distance running and track and field events.

Wangyal's organization, Lobsang Wangyal Productions, has also been organizing the Miss Tibet pageant every year since 2002.

Meanwhile, the Tibetan government-in-exile, which has called for Tibetans worldwide to temporarily halt anti-China protests as a mark of respect to the victims of the earthquake, distanced itself from the event.

"We have no role in the event which is being organized by a private enterprise over which we have no influence. We have already made an appeal to individual Tibetans to stay away from protests," spokesman of the exiled Tibetan government Thubten Samphel said.

But Wangyal said the games were being held only to keep the Tibetan cause in the headlines. "We are in solidarity with the victims of the earthquake. We will be offering prayers and homage to the victims during the Tibetan Olympics," he said.

A quake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck China's southwestern Sichuan province on May 12 and left at least 40,000 people dead and 32,000 missing.

Earlier in March, anti-China protests had broken out in Tibet and soon spread across the world with scores of Tibetans holding demonstrations demanding independence for Tibet and an end to China's oppression in the Himalayan region.

According to the Tibetan government-in-exile about 205 people, mostly Tibetans, have died in the unrest since March. China said that 18 civilians and one police officer died in the March 14 rioting in Lhasa.

Copyright © 2008 DPA

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