Spielberg withdraws as adviser to Olympics

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Adding his voice to efforts to pressure China to use its influence on the Sudanese government to end the crisis in Darfur, Steven Spielberg said Tuesday that he will not serve as one of the artistic advisers to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he said. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."

Spielberg, who traveled to Beijing in April 2006 to announce his participation, had planned to join forces with Chinese director Zhang Yimou to direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, which run Aug. 8-24. Spielberg was to have advised Zhang on the design aspects of the two events (HR 4/18).

However, because of his concern about Darfur, Spielberg said that he had intentionally not signed a contract that the Beijing Organizing Committee offered him a year ago. Instead, he said: "I have made repeated efforts to encourage the Chinese government to use its unique influence to bring safety and stability to the Darfur region of Sudan. Although some progress has been made along the way ... the situation in Darfur continues to worsen, and the violence continues to accelerate."

China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports, while also selling weapons to the Sudanese government. Five years of fighting between Sudan's Arab-dominated government and Darfur's ethnic African rebels have killed more than 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million into refugee camps.

In a separate development Tuesday -- which was dubbed a Global Day of Action -- actress Mia Farrow, who had been critical of Spielberg's support of the Games, joined with other activists including Nobel Peace Prize laureates and 13 former Olympians in a letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao condemning Beijing's support of the Sudanese government.

Farrow was on hand when the letter was delivered to the Chinese Mission at the United Nations in New York.

"How can Beijing host the Olympic Games at home and underwrite genocide?" she said. "Time is running out for the people of Darfur."

In his statement, Spielberg said, "Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there."

The director did offer his compliments to Zhang, saying, "I have learned a great deal from working with him and all the other creative artists along the way," and said he still hoped to attend the Games, calling them "an opportunity to help ease some of the tensions in the world."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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