Interview: Tying politics to Olympics not wise: former NFL commissioner

2008-07-17 15:37:33 GMT       2008-07-17 23:37:33 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

by Wang Jiangang

NEW YORK, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Paul Tagliabue, former longtime commissioner of the U.S. National Football League (NFL), said it is not wise nor constructive to tie politics to the Olympic Games.

"It is, in my view, not wise or constructive to tie the Olympics to economic, political or other subjects that are unrelated to the Olympic Games themselves, that is, to the competition among the athletes," Tagliabue told Xinhua in a telephone interview recently.

"At the same time, it is certainly proper to require the Olympics to be conducted, televised and covered by the media according to standards that have been developed by the International Olympic Committee or according to global standards and expectations set by the nations participating in the Olympics," he added.

During Tagliabue's tenure as commissioner from 1989 to 2006, the NFL had many remarkable achievements to its credit. He is widely regarded to have done an outstanding job as commissioner, with some sports writers going so far as to call him the greatest commissioner in the history of North American professional sports.

Noting that the Olympics should focus on sports and athletic competition, he said people "should make every effort to keep that separate from politics."

Strongly believing the 21st century will be driven by China and other Asian countries, Tagliabue has already made plans to live in China for up to six months upon his retirement from the NFL.

He said although the plan hasn't been fulfilled yet, he is still considering that kind of possibility. It takes time to understand such a big country as China, which has maintained the fastest economic development for the past three decades, he added.

"The complexity of dealing with more than a billion people in a developing economy takes time to understand," he said.

Tagliabue decided to attend the Olympics opening ceremony shortly after his retirement from the NFL. "You have a great interest in China and in sports as well. Why don't you go to the Olympics in Beijing," Tagliabue cited his family members as saying when the decision was made.

Tagliabue's interests extend well beyond football. He is a voracious reader, studying business management, sports history and current affairs books. He recommended "Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World," a book written by David Maraniss, to this correspondent.

"The Olympics can change the world, and have changed the hosting countries like your neighbors South Korea and Japan," he said, adding it will bring positive changes to China as well.

Tagliabue highly commended Beijing's preparations for the Olympics, saying the city has made "tremendous" changes since his first visit in 1993 and even "striking" changes since the city won the bid to host the games in 2001.

"In terms of the buildings and architecture, transportation, there are tremendous changes, " he said. "In 1993, there were tens of thousands of cyclists, very few automobiles, but now things are very different."

Tagliabue recalled that he and his colleagues three yeas ago were looking at stadiums in Beijing and Shanghai for the possibility of playing NFL games in China, but to their disappointment, some of those were "quite old."

"But now you have all these tremendous new stadiums and new facilities for cycling and swimming and other activities and also facilities for athletes to be housed," he said.

"Beijing has demonstrated to the world that it is the right place to host the Olympics," he added.

"The other big change is in the media in terms of the number of TV stations, the opportunities for people to watch different programs on TV and how many families are connected to multiple channels, all of these things have changed," Tagliabue said.

Tagliabue also applauded the progress in terms of the media's access to activities and the events that are related to the Olympic Games.

"It's a chance for the world to see China as it is today, but not China 40 or 50 years ago," he said.

"The earthquake (in southwestern China's Sichuan province), as tragic as it has been, allows a certain population from around the world to observe that there is another side of China that is humanitarian."

"The Olympics have opened the window even wider for the world to see many other things about China it has never seen before," Tagliabue said.

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