China To Athlete Activist: Stay Out!

Three days before the opening ceremonies, Beijing revoked the visa of Joey Cheek, a former Olympian and Darfur activist. How badly can China bungle its own p.r.?

Brendan Hoffman / Getty

Joey Cheek, Olympic speed skating gold medalist, after testifying at a hearing on Capitol Hill on the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, on June 24, 2008 in Washington, DC.

Last week, Joey Cheek was pumped. Over lunch in New York City, I talked to the wide-eyed Olympic champion about his upcoming trip to Beijing, where the ex-speedskater and Darfur activist planned to rally athletes to raise awareness of troubles in Sudan. He wanted to outline the steps that China, which has close ties to the Sudanese government, could take to stop the atrocities in Darfur. I half-jokingly asked him how he managed to get his hands on a visa, since the Chinese government was notoriously begrudging to let potential nuisances step foot in the country during the Olympics. "Man, I...

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