More Notables Stay Away From Beijing Olympics

Nobel laureate scraps torch relay; UN chief won't attend opening
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2008 11:17 AM CDT
A Tibetan supporter, right, argues with a Chinese supporter at a rally for China's Olympic torch at the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 9, 2008.    (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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(Newser) – The controversy around the Olympic flame continued as Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel laureate, announced she was dropping out of the torch relay. Maathai was to carry the torch this weekend in Tanzania but pulled out in protest of China's human rights record. Maathai also told the Los Angeles Times that she supports fellow Nobelist Desmond Tutu's call for a boycott of the opening ceremony.

Meanwhile, aides to Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that the UN secretary-general would not attend the opening of the Beijing Games. Ban's office cited a "scheduling conflict" and said the UN leader would rather make a "substantive visit to China." Like Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel before him, Ban insisted that the decision to stay away from the opening ceremony was not a snub.