It is assumed that Cheek, who won the bronze medal in 1000m men’s speed skating in Salt Lake City 2002, Silver in the 1000m and the Gold in the 500m event in Turin 2006, had his entry visa revoked by the Chinese regime because he heads Team Darfur, an international association of athletes who are devoted to raising awareness of various human rights abuses and humanitarian crises related to the War in Darfur, and this includes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s rather substantial role.
Cheek said on his Team Darfur blog, “My visa was revoked by the Chinese government less than 24 hours before my flight was to depart. It is of course disappointing to me, but I am not alone. Brad Greiner, Kendra Zanotto, and Chris Boyles all had visas revoked or denied. I find this very concerning because I believe that it is an effort to silence anyone who is even suspected of disagreeing with the Chinese government.”
Of course, Cheek is not without supporters. On August 9 The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies sent a letter signed by relatives of five families who are descendants of heavy critics of the 1936 Nazi Olympics to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC.
The families included were the family of Mayor La Guardia, the family of U.S. Representative Emanuel Celler (D-NY), 1940’s New York Yankees pitcher Marius “Lefty” Russo, the families of track and field stars and Nazi Olympic boycotters, Herman Neugass and Syd Koff and the family of Rabbis Louis Newman and Charles Levi.
“The families of those who spoke out in 1936 are carrying on the tradition of their fathers and grandfathers, by speaking out against injustice,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff in their press release. “Barring Joey Cheek contradicts the Olympic spirit of tolerance and openness that China pledged to uphold.”
A passage from the letter sent by the Institute reads, “The lesson our family members taught us is that the Olympics present an opportunity to promote greater international tolerance and understanding. In 2001, China was awarded the right to host this year’s Olympics in part because of its promise to permit open access to the games by the international media and to allow those who disagree with Chinese government policies to express themselves.”