British PM Brown won't attend opening ceremony

April 9, 2008 2:04:05 PM PDT
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Brown's office said he was not boycotting the Olympics and would attend the closing ceremony.

Brown has been under intense pressure from human rights campaigners to skip the opening ceremony on Aug. 8 to protest Beijing's ongoing crackdown in Tibet.

Brown's decision not to attend the opening ceremony was not aimed at sending a message of protest to the Chinese government, the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

She said the decision had been made weeks ago and was not a stand on principle.

"He had never planned to attend," she said. "There is absolutely no change in our position."

Last month, Brown said he planned to attend the Olympics, without mentioning the opening ceremony. Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was debating not attending the opening ceremony.

London is hosting the 2012 Olympics and British officials were expected to attend events throughout the games.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell will represent the British government at the opening of the Beijing Olympics.