BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge poured cold water Saturday on calls for a boycott of the Summer Games in Beijing over China's crackdown in Tibet, saying it would only penalize athletes.
"We believe that the boycott doesn't solve anything," Rogge told reporters on this Caribbean island. "On the contrary. It is penalizing innocent athletes and it is stopping the organization from something that definitely is worthwhile organizing."
Riots in the Tibetan capital Saturday are the largest and most violent protests against Chinese rule in the region in nearly two decades, dashing Beijing's plans for a smooth run-up to August's Olympics.
So far, international criticism of the crackdown in Tibet has been mild. The U.S. and European Union called for Chinese restraint without any threats of an Olympic boycott or other sanctions.
"What is happening in Tibet and Beijing's responses to it will not affect the games very much unless the issue really gets out of control," said Xu Guoqi, a China-born historian at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.
The Olympic celebrations are scheduled to kick into high gear in two weeks with the start of the torch relay, which passes through Tibet.
Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, said the unrest would not have a negative impact on the Games or the torch relay.
Preparations to carry the Olympic torch across Mount Everest and across Tibet "have been proceeding very smoothly and according to schedule," Sun said.
"The hosting of the Beijing Games is the 100-year dream for Chinese people and I think the Chinese people, including our compatriots in Tibet, very much look forward to hosting the Games," Sun said.
The United States and other governments have urged China to show restraint on the protesters, though International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge deferred, saying he didn't have details.
"It is not our job," Rogge, the IOC president, told reporters while visiting Puerto Rico. "We are not an activist organization."