Concerned about reports that China will boycott the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta if its capital city, Beijing, is not selected this week as the site for the Games in 2000, the International Olympic Committee's executive board asked for a clarification Saturday from one of its vice presidents, He Zhenliang of China.
"Mr. He was absolutely crystal clear that the question of non-participation does not exist," the IOC's director general, Francois Carrard, said during a news conference.
That is considerably more clear than He, the president of China's Olympic Committee, was in remarks to reporters Friday. He said Chinese athletes would not boycott, then confused the issue by repeatedly refusing to confirm that they would compete at Atlanta.
The question arose after an Australian television network released a transcript of a recent interview with Zhang Baifa, the head of Beijing's bid committee, who said China might boycott as "revenge" against the U.S. Congress.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution in July urging the IOC to reject Beijing's bid because of China's human rights record. Sixty senators also expressed opposition to the bid in letters to the IOC, which will vote Thursday. Other candidates are Sydney, Australia; Manchester, England; Istanbul, Turkey, and Berlin.
Although executive board members seemed satisfied with He's reassurances, concern lingered because the Chinese proved so inept in attempts Friday to defuse the issue.
More sympathetic was Billy Payne, who headed Atlanta's successful bid three years ago. "I think what we are hearing now is some difficult times and statements and a lot of pressure that everybody gets under immediately before the vote," he said. "I remember the stupid things I said."