President Bush plans to attend opening of Beijing Olympics

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The opening ceremony will take place in Beijing National Stadium.

United States President George W. Bush is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing on August 8, the White House said Thursday.

The visit will be part of an August trip to China, South Korea, and Thailand, where he will discuss issues such as bilateral relations, U.S.-Korean trade and North Korea's nuclear program.

Human rights groups have appealed to Bush not to attend the Olympics, citing the Chinese government's crackdown on Tibetan protesters as evidence of human rights abuse. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus have said they will boycott the opening ceremony as a political protest. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says that he will not attend the opening, but he will be at the closing.

Chinese President Hu Jintao with George W. Bush.

U.S. senator and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was among a group of senators who sent Bush a letter urging him not to attend the Olympics. Presumptive Presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain have also weighed in. Obama wants Bush to boycott the ceremony if China doesn't respect human rights in Tibet and pressure Sudan on the violence in Darfur, while McCain has said that if he were President, he wouldn't attend.

Representatives of the Chinese government have begun talks with the Dalai Lama to ease tension between China and Tibet. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier this week that his attendance at the Olympics will depend on the outcome of these talks.

However, Bush has previously said that he would go to the Olympics to support American athletes, not to make a political statement. "He sees this as a sporting competition," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. "But at the same time, just as he will this week when he sees President Hu, he will talk to him about these important issues of human rights and especially religious freedom."