The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, is going to attend the Olympics in Beijing next month and said it had not been difficult to decide whether he should go or not, arguing that sports are a powerful tool to increase understanding between nations.
Grímsson told Fréttabladid that he had first received an invitation to attend the Olympics from the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland two years ago.
President of China Hu Jintao then formally invited Grímsson to attend the event during Grímsson’s visit to China two years ago and China’s president re-iterated his invitation when the two leaders met again last year.
Grímsson explained that while he had a seat on the board of the Special Olympics he had come to understand how sports can provide nations with a better understanding of each other.
“I have also become convinced in recent years, after attending many meetings with Chinese officials, that the best way to support human rights and democratic development in China is to have positive discussions with Chinese officials, show them respect and distinction but at the same time include them in international discussions,” Grímsson said.
“Other methods, which are characterized with hostility and criticism, are not as influential,” Grímsson concluded.
Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir has been criticized for accepting an offer to attend the opening ceremony Beijing Olympics in light of the alleged human rights violations in Tibet earlier this year.