Olympic Organizers Saddened By Fighting in South Ossetia | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.08.2008
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Olympic Organizers Saddened By Fighting in South Ossetia

Olympic organizers on Saturday expressed regret over the outbreak of hostilities between Georgia and Russia, saying conflicts were not compatible with Olympic values and the Olympic Truce.

The Olympic rings rise during the opening ceremony

Fighting in South Ossetia clouded the Olympics

"We are all sorry for what has happened," Wang Wei, the executive vice-president of the Olympic organizing committee BOCOG, told a news conference. "We believe all issues can be resolved by dialogue."

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies said: "Conflict is not what we want to see. It is contrary to what the Olympic ideals stand for."

The fighting in Southern Ossetia, a breakaway enclave of Georgia, erupted at the same time as the Beijing Olympics opened in the presence of Georgian and Russian athletes and with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin among the spectators in Beijing's National Stadium.

Sad precedence

It came despite a call from the United Nations to respect the Olympics Truce and for warring parties to cease all hostilities worldwide during the Games. It was the first time that a conflict began on the opening day of an Olympics.

"The Olympic Truce is the heart of what our values stand for," said Davies, but added that it had to be implemented by the UN. "It is a sad reality that a number of countries are in conflict."

Davies said it was not appropriate for the IOC to comment on the fact that the 2014 Winter Games' host city of Sochi was close to South Ossetia.

"It is wrong to make any assessment here in perspective to the Games," she said.

Davies also said that the conflict, and politics in general, was not discussed when IOC president Jacques Rogge met with Putin on Friday.

China calls for ceasefire

Olympic host China meanwhile joined many other countries Saturday in urging both sides to seek dialogue. "The Chinese side expresses its solemn concern over the escalation of tensions and armed clashes in South Ossetia," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement. "China calls on the concerned sides to exercise restraint and cease fire."

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