NEW DELHI, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - Tibetan exiles in India announced plans on Tuesday for a sporting event next year that organisers hope will take some of the shine off the 2008 Olympics in China.
The 10-day Tibetan ``Olympics'' will take place from May 10, 2008 in northern India's hilltop town of Dharamsala, the headquarters of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
``This is going to be purely a sporting event for Tibetans living in exile, as they would not be able to go to Beijing for the Olympics,'' Lobsang Wangyal, the head of the organising committee, told AFP.
``Finding funds will not be a problem as Tibetan organisations worldwide will donate,'' he added by telephone from Dharamsala, which is home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.
He estimated the cost of the games, which will include marathon, swimming, shooting, archery and track and field events, at around 90,000 dollars.
``We have a large swimming pool which will have to do,'' Wangyal said, referring to the planned swimming contests.
China has ruled Tibet since sending troops in to ``liberate'' the region in 1951 and has violently suppressed a number of uprisings since then.
The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamsala since fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Amnesty International has accused Beijing of using the Olympics, to be held from August 8 to August 24 2008, to crack down on peaceful dissent in the name of stability -- charges that China has rejected.
Wangyal, much to China's annoyance, has already staged several ``Miss Tibet'' beauty pageants in Dharamsala.
Last year Miss Tibet Tashi Yangchen was barred from taking part in a beauty contest in Malaysia after Beijing complained that a woman who lived in India could not represent a part of China.
The Dalai Lama has abandoned his original call for independence for his homeland in favour of ``meaningful autonomy'' to preserve Tibet's language, culture and environment.
China has rejected his overtures and sees him as a trouble-maker.
``In India we live in democracy and we have the right to expression and so no one can stop us (staging the games),'' said Wangyal.
``We can't take part in Beijing because Tibet is not recognised as a separate nation,'' he added.
The organisers later in a press conference said they were hoping for wider participation.
``There will be no bar on any country or sportsperson planning to participate in the games here,'' a spokesman of the event told reporters in Dharamsala.
He also said the torch of the ``Tibetan Olympics'' will be lit on January 30 in New Delhi and carried by road to Dharamsala by a series of ``Tibetan, Indian, and international runners.''
The games will feature top prizes of 2,220 dollars in each event.
``Whatever the scale, it will definitely offend Beijing,'' anti-China activist Purbo Thinley, who operates an all-Tibetan website, said by telephone from Dharamsala.
However, Tibetan leaders in India said they would rather not offend China.
''(The) Olympics is a prized event for China and some of us feel the games here will needlessly irk China,'' a senior official from the Tibetan government-in-exile told AFP, asking to remain unnamed.
Hmmm. Do any of these counter-events get much attention. Didn't the old Soviet bloc used to organise Spartakiads between the world wars, and didn't Barcelona stage a "Workers games" in 1936 in opposition to the Berlin Games?