Joined: 20 Jul 2007
|Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 23:40:07 UTC Post subject: 9 April 2008- PM not attending Olympics opening
|PM not attending Olympics opening
9 April 2008 18:59 GMT, 19:59 UK, BBC
Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Downing Street says.
However, he will be at the closing ceremony when the Olympic baton will be passed to London.
A spokeswoman said Mr Brown had never planned to attend the ceremony and was not boycotting the Games.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Mr Brown "seems to do the right thing late in the day when he is forced to do so because of public opinion".
Mr Clegg, speaking to Channel Four News, branded the move a "last-minute U-turn".
The Olympics minister Tessa Jowell will represent the UK at the opening in Beijing in August.
Mr Brown - who has been under pressure to boycott the Olympics over China's human rights record - has never specifically said he will attend the opening ceremony.
And BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said Downing Street felt it would not make sense for him to go to China twice.
However he has talked of attending plural "ceremonies".
On 27 March, at a press conference during France's President Sarkozy's visit, he said: "We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games; Britain will be attending the Olympic Games ceremonies.
"At the same time, the president has said that the Dalai Lama has not called for a boycott of the Olympic Games."
At his Downing Street news conference on 1 April, Mr Brown said: "I think President Sarkozy said himself that he expected Britain, because we are going to host the next Olympics, to be present at the Olympic ceremonies and I will certainly be there."
It comes as the Olympic torch arrives in San Francisco under tight security for the sixth leg of its round-the-world relay.
Barricades have been set up and streets sealed off close to the planned relay route. Police leave has been cancelled.
Protests have already caused serious disruption to legs in London and Paris. In Paris, the torch had to be extinguished three times, while in London there were 37 arrests.
Mr Brown attracted controversy for receiving the Olympic torch outside 10 Downing Street, although he did not hold it.
Most demonstrators are protesting over a security crackdown in Tibet after anti-Chinese unrest.
Tibetan exile groups say Chinese security forces killed dozens of protesters. Beijing says about 19 people were killed in rioting.