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Chinese Made Watch List of U.S. Olympians

POSTED: 03:33 PM ET, 10/30/2008 by Derek Kravitz


Jennie Finch, No. 27 center, of the United States looks on from the dugout against Japan during the women's semifinal softball game at the Fengtai Softball Field during Day 12 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 20, 2008, in China. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Chinese Olympic officials, worried that political protests and demonstrations might overshadow this summer's Games in Beijing, compiled a list of American athletes who officials feared might disrupt the competition.

The list of Americans, many of whom are involved in the human-rights organization "Team Darfur," included four U.S. softball players, among them Jennie Finch, Amanda Freed and Jessica Mendoza; a softball assistant coach; two Paralympians; a cyclist; a golfer (golf is actually not an Olympc sport); and soccer forward Abby Wambach, who broke her leg prior to the Games and did not make the trip to Beijing, USA Today reported.

Shu Xiao, the minister counselor for cultural affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, met with American officials in July after the Chinese learned some members of the U.S. team might "stage some sort of demonstration at the Games, perhaps displaying banners or wearing apparel or wrist bands bearing political slogans," according to an e-mail obtained by USA Today.

American officials told Shu that political demonstrations at Olympic venues are "expressly prohibited" by its governing bodies. Shu "seemed mollified" by the Americans' assurance.

"We didn't press him on the source of his information but his possession of it certainly confirms what was announced at Monday's Beijing Olympic staff meeting about the Chinese paying close attention to what people are saying and perhaps planning to do," according to the July 8 internal e-mail from U.S. Olympic Committee. The e-mail, which was posted on the newspaper's Web site, does not identify the sender.

Noticeably absent from the list was American runner Lopez Lomong, one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, a Team Darfur member and the athlete selected by his teammates to symbolically carry the country's colors for the Opening Ceremonies.

But the list also showed the country's concern over "Team Darfur," a group of athletes that aims to raise awareness about the conflict in Sudan and has been pressing China to do more to help end the fighting.

Before the Games started, the Chinese government rescinded the visa of 2006 Olympic speedskating gold medalist Joey Cheek, the co-founder of "Team Darfur."

Before the Games started, Finch and Mendoza were quoted in a Post article saying they were "great advocates" for the group but pledging not to discuss politics at the ceremonies.

"The Olympics is about the Olympics and it's a celebration," Finch said. "Let's set politics and religion aside, and really enjoy the Olympics and what the Olympics are all about."

But political activity has figured prominently in previous Olympic Games: The Black Power salute atop the medal podium by runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games and the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, just to name a few.

Patricia Miranda, a 2004 bronze medal-winning wrestler in 2004, told The Post she struggled with a desire to speak out at the 2008 Games, if she were to qualify.

"I support that!" Miranda said, raising her fist a la the 1968 Black Power salute. "I know they got kicked out (of the Olympics), but I thought it was important. Their message reverberated. ...Every athlete has to figure out, 'Where are my boundaries?'"

The Yale Law School graduate surprisingly failed to qualify for the Olympics this year, likely ending her career.

The 10 Americans on China's watch list (USA Today):

Jessica Mendoza, softball
Jennie Finch, softball
Natasha Watley, softball
Amanda Freed, softball
Karen Johns, softball assistant coach
Laura Goodwin, golfer
Abby Wambach, soccer
Jonathan Page, cyclist
Jen Howitt, Paralympic basketball
Cheri Blauwet, Paralympic wheelchair racer

By Derek Kravitz |  October 30, 2008; 3:33 PM ET
Previous: 'Lavish' Spending Not Found Elsewhere At Smithsonian | Next: Voting Problem Types

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