September 21 - Peace and Sport, the charity which has Prince Albert of Monaco as its patron, has hit out at China for withdrawing its badminton players from a tournament in Japan because of the political crisis between the countries over a group of uninhabited islands.
A total of 22 Chinese players were pulled out of the Japan Open in Tokyo earlier this week because the Table Tennis and Badminton Centre of China's central sporting administration claimed that they feared for their safety.
The withdrawal was linked to an escalating territorial dispute over a small island chain in the East China Sea administered by Japan under the name Senkaku, but vehemently claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
The row has sparked widespread anti-Japanese protests in several Chinese cities.
Japan's Olympic table tennis silver medallist Kasumi Ishikawa has also been prevented from playing in a World Cup event in Huangshi, China, after organisers warned they could not guarantee her safety.
A group of Japanese cyclists were also forced to abandon the Tour of China due to the crisis and return home.
The fact that sport has been used as a weapon in the dispute has been criticised by Joel Bouzou, the President of Peace and Sport, which is based in Monte Carlo and claims to be a neutral and apolitical international initiative.
"On this international Day of Peace, on behalf of Peace and Sport, I would like to call on Governments and political leaders around the world to stop using sport as a means of expressing their political tensions, to the contrary, I urge them to use sport as a force for building a sustainable peace," said Bouzou.
"Our commitment at Peace and Sport is to promote sport as a tool for dialogue, for diplomacy at the highest levels, and to build social cohesion through grass roots programmes.
"Earlier this week, China withdrew its team from an international badminton tournament in Japan.
"Evidently, Beijing and Tokyo have chosen the sports field to express their political and diplomatic oppositions.
"The athletes were victims, used as pawns in a conflict in which they play no part.
"Since its founding in 2007, our Movement has promoted sport and its values as a means of reconciliation between countries and communities.
"In the recent past, there have been numerous examples of the key role that sport can play in the conflict resolution process.
"We remember the joint parade of the two Koreas at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, united behind the same flag, symbolising a country without borders.
"To this day, that image remains the one of the most significant advances in this half-century long conflict.
"A table tennis tournament organised by Peace and Sport and the International Table Tennis Federation in 2011involving India, Pakistan, North Korea and South Korea also promoted political reconciliation at the highest level.
"And it was sport which provided the structure for these diplomatic advances.
"Through their symbolic force and impact, these images constitute an example of the utility and potential of sport as a dynamic tool in international relations and peace making process.
"The incidents this week between China and Japan in the sporting arena are there to remind us: our Movement is more universal than ever.
"Our efforts must intensify to spread sport everywhere peace is threatened.
"I hope, very soon to see China and Japan sharing the same field of play through sport as a demonstration of their commitment to preserve long term friendship and respect."
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