Aug 06

Speedskating Champion Joey Cheek Denied Entry to China Olympics

Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek had his visa to China revoked by the embassy just hours before he was scheduled to fly. He even admitted that he never planned to wear a mask when he got there. Cheek is the founder of Team Darfur, a group of athletes who intend raise awareness of human rights violations in the Darfur region of Sudan. China’s military, economic, and diplomatic ties to Sudan have been well-publicized as the Games started to draw near.

Said Cheek of his ban in a prepared statement:

I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games. The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, the denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur.

Cheek intended to attend the games to support athletes on Team Darfur and to promote the cause he has been championing for years. Following his gold medal in the Torino Games, Cheek announced that he was donating his $25,000 USOC bonus to Darfur and implored his sponsors to do the same.

Despite promises that China will clean up its act before the Olympics began, it seems a difficult task considering the lengths they will go to in order to prevent dissension in their country. Revoking Cheek’s visa for the Olympics is actually ironic. The Olympics represents the world’s unity regardless of our conflicts and differences. Yet, China has chosen to deny Cheek the opportunity to watch the Games for these very reasons.

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