Here is the official response from the organizing committee of the Beijing Games to director Steven Spielberg’s decision to withdraw as an artistic adviser to the opening ceremonies:
We have taken note of media reports. Mr. Spielberg expressed his wish to make a contribution to the Beijing Olympic Games, and was given a certificate of appointment as one of the cultural and artistic consultants to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. We express our regret over his recent personal statement.
Preparations for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games are moving along smoothly and we believe excellent ceremonies will be presented to the world.
The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue.
The Olympic Games is a sports event that belongs to the people of the world and the successful hosting of these Games is the common aspiration of citizens from every corner of the world.
Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic Spirit that separates sports from politics.
The Foreign Ministry gave a similar reply this afternoon. Per Reuters, spokesman Liu Jianchao said: “We express regret. All preparation work for the Beijing Olympics is proceeding smoothly. The Chinese people are willing to work with artists from around the world with wisdom and talent and the Olympic Games will be a success.”
So, a couple thoughts on the replies. One, they’re sober and well put, which isn’t always the case when it comes to official responses on these sorts of questions. Two, they took a long time to come out, 30+ hours by my count. That means another news cycle, more stories, and more attention to the subject, which I’m guessing is not exactly what the organizers want. The explanation I was given from the organizing committee side was this was an unusual story, the response required many people’s approval, and they’re busy preparing for an Olympics.
Still, it inevitably leads to comments like these from Richard Spencer of the Telegraph about the delay. He adds that Beijing should consider what Spielberg is saying.
This raises an important question: how will they respond when someone or some group makes a protest six months from now, as they inevitably will, and you don’t have two days to come up with an answer?