Olympians unhappy with religious center at Olympic village

A quiet protest is underway at the Olympic village by a number of athletes unhappy with the services. At all Olympics, a religious center is set up to handle athletes spiritual needs. Chaplins and Imans and other religious persons were brought in from around the world with multi-lingual abilities to help athletes prepare mentally before their events. But in China, the government steadfastly refused to allow any foreign religious leaders in, and instead is making do with Chinese volunteers, few of which speak the language of the athletes fluently.

The quality of the religious services center came into sharper focus on Saturday after the fatal attack against Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of the coach of the U.S. men’s volleyball team, at a popular tourist spot in Beijing. To help athletes with their grief, the U.S. team had to scramble for official permission to get a chaplain who spoke English fluently into the village.

Phelim Kine, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, said the ban on foreign chaplains runs counter to the Olympic charter’s “dedication to fundamental ethical principals and freedom of expression.” He also said the International Olympic Committee shares the blame.

“This is yet another example of IOC’s failure to enforce and to stand up to China’s efforts to roll back basic freedoms that have been taken granted at previous Olympics,” Kine said.

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