A letter from the Dalai Lama's office that just came across the citydesk indicates that an invitation to attend the Special Olympics World Games opening ceremonies in Boise next month was withdrawn.
The U.S. Office of Tibet in New York City says that the Dalai Lama was first invited to attend the opening ceremonies, to be held Feb. 7 at the Idaho Center in Nampa. But according to Dalai Lama spokesman, Lobsang Nyandak, the Chinese government threatened to boycott the games and shut down Special Olympics programs in China, putting pressure on the organizing committee to alter its invite.
After this pressure, which the Tibetan official says was applied in Nov. 2008, the Special Olympics proposed that the Dalai Lama attend the end of the games, but he was already booked elsewhere later that week.
"It is important to realize that if the people in a free and democratic society know-tow [sic] to the political pressure, we are emboldening the other side in their wrong doings. Standing up against injustice will help China become a responsible member of the world community," the Office of Tibet letter reads. See below for the full text.
The Special Olympics World Games responded to a recent letter to the editor
in the Mountain Express that first exposed the controversy. The Special Olympics is placing blame on the Dalai Lama for not being able to attend:
"This invitation was still open when the Dalai Lama unfortunately decided he could not attend. Although regrettable, we respect this decision and hope that this inspirational leader will be able to celebrate Special Olympics with us at a future event."
Special Olympics spokeswoman Kirsten Suto Seckler said that the Dalai Lama was invited to attend the games in general and not for a specific portion of the games, much like world leaders in all 180 countries in which the games have a presence.
Nyandak stessed that the Dalai Lama is still praying for a peaceful winter games in Idaho: "It is not the fault of the organizing committee," he said. "We wish that the games be held peacefully and successfully."