Launching an Ambassador
Hopefully, it’s not escaped your attention that there is a small sporting event happening in China this summer (aka the Olympic Games), and that we at Amnesty have been keen to use the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the Chinese authorities’ appalling human rights record.To step that up a notch at the weekend we launched John Amaechi onto the world as our new Olympic Ambassador.Finding the right person to champion Amnesty’s cause is not the easiest job in the world, but John fits the bill perfectly.He’s articulate, he’s a sporting legend – the first Brit to have a career in the NBA, the elite American basketball league – and most importantly he’s passionate about human rights.After several weeks of talks with the Big Man – he’s 6ft 9in – and his publicist, we set up exclusive interviews with The Guardian, Sky News and Granada (one national newspaper, one national broadcaster and one regional). And that meant a trip up to Manchester – Big John’s residence when he’s on these shores – for yours truly.After a quick briefing, not that he really needed it, it was straight into the interviews and it paid off. The Guardian ran a news story and an excellent spread in the sports section. Sky and Granada featured the interview throughout the day in their bulletins.And the follow-up has been good too. This morning he was on BBC Radio 5 Live at 6.20am and was also featured on BBC Radio Manchester. You can listen to the 5 Live interview here.John has promised to take Amnesty’s message to Beijing, where he will be working as a commentator, and watch out for exclusive blogs from John on these pages during the Games.Hopefully John’s call to other athletes to stand up and be counted will also be heeded and we will be able to break news on these pages of other sportsmen and women holding the Chinese authorities to account. As he says, people in China can’t speak out for fear of reprisal so it’s up to others to do so for them.In the meantime, the attention here in the press office now switches to Wednesday and the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Amnesty is holding demonstrations up and down the country, most notably in Belfast, Edinburgh and London. The latter will take place outside the Chinese embassy from 6 to 7.30pm: do try and come along if you can. Full details of the various events can be found here. See you then.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.