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Bush Campaign Won't Pull Ad Despite Complaint by USOC

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A12

ATHENS, Aug. 26 -- President Bush's reelection campaign said Thursday that it would continue to run television ads crediting his policies for the presence of "two more free nations" at the Olympics, despite objections from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Iraqi athletes.

The USOC sent the Bush campaign a letter late Wednesday formally asking it to cease the broadcasts. The committee cited an act of Congress, most recently amended in 1999, that bars the use of the terms "Olympic" and "Olympiad" for political or commercial purposes.



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"It is the responsibility of the USOC to manage Olympic marks, terms and images in the U.S., and also to remain apolitical," said Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the USOC.

A Bush campaign official said Thursday that the ad was an acceptable form of free speech, however, and that it would continue to air until at least Sunday, the last day of the Summer Olympics. "We are on firm legal ground to mention the Olympics to make a factual point in a political advertisement," Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters.

The advertisement flashes the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan over a stadium and a swimming pool as an announcer says: "Freedom is spreading through the world like a sunrise. And this Olympics there will be two more free nations. And two fewer terrorist regimes."

Bush has cited the Iraqi men's soccer team -- which can win a bronze medal if it defeats Italy on Friday -- as one of the most inspiring stories to emerge from this summer's Olympics. The ads and Bush's statements have provoked bitter feelings among some Iraqi Olympians, who have been quoted in recent days as blaming the president for the destruction of their homeland.

"How will he meet his God having slaughtered so many men and women?" Ahmed Manajid, a midfielder on the soccer team, told Sports Illustrated last week. "He has committed so many crimes."

Members of the International Olympic Committee have also expressed reservations about the Bush ads, saying they ran the risk of sullying a global trademark that has tried to remain above politics.

"We're watching, and we hope they will stop the commercial," Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, the head of the IOC panel on marketing, told the Norwegian news agency NTB. "We don't want to get involved in politics. We are neutral."

The small Olympic delegations from Iraq and Afghanistan received sustained cheers during the Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 13. U.S. athletes here have received a much more muted reception, and people willing to express anti-American feelings are not difficult to find at the Olympics.

Greek labor unions and antiwar protesters are planning to march outside the U.S. Embassy here on Friday to demonstrate against Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's trip to Athens this weekend. Powell is scheduled to attend the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday and meet with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

"Colin Powell is coming here while the Americans are killing people in Iraq," Yiannis Sifakakis, a protest organizer, said at a press conference Tuesday. "He is a hawk, a war criminal and an arch murderer. . . . We do not want him here."

Greek officials have urged labor and anarchist groups that have a long history of loudly opposing U.S. policies to curb their protests during the Olympics, but said they would not interfere in Friday's demonstration as long as it remains peaceful.

"The right to free expression in this country is enshrined by the Greek Constitution," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Tuesday. "I would hope that the organizers of any such demonstrations will take into consideration the highly critical nature of this period, amidst the Olympic Games, and that they will safeguard the image of Greece."


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