Letter Hits Decision to Bar Cheek

Washington Post – Saturday, August 9, 2008; Page E08

BEIJING, Aug. 8 — Children of U.S. athletes who boycotted the 1936 Summer Games in Nazi Germany have written a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Washington criticizing the Chinese government’s decision to revoke the visa of 2006 Olympian and social activist Joey Cheek.

Cheek, who won a gold medal in speedskating at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, founded Team Darfur, an international coalition of athletes seeking to bring attention to the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. Cheek wanted to attend the Summer Games in Beijing but learned Tuesday that his visa had been revoked.

He has been critical of China for its role as a major trading partner of Sudan’s.

The letter, also signed by the families of prominent Americans who protested against the 1936 Games, calls upon the Chinese government to reverse its decision, saying it “contravenes the spirit of openness and tolerance that China pledged to facilitate and our family members valued so highly.” It was to be sent Saturday to Zhou Wenzhong, the Chinese ambassador, according to Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington.

Among the letter’s signees: Marian Markovich, the daughter of basketball star Marius “Lefty” Russo, who boycotted the 1936 Games in Berlin; Richard Neugass, son of Tulane sprinter Herman Neugass, who boycotted; Steve Cooper, son of Syd Koff, a track and field athlete who boycotted; the family of late congressman Emanuel Celler, a critic of holding the Games in Germany; and the family of Saul Newman, whose grandfather, Louis I. Newman, was a rabbi and opponent of holding the Olympics in Berlin.

“Like our parents, Joey Cheek and his colleagues at Team Darfur have spoken out against injustice and oppression,” the letter said. “They have a right to do so.”

— Amy Shipley


See the article on WashingtonPost.com here