Cameron: Assad regime not welcome at Olympics

DAVID STRINGER Associated Press Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed Wednesday that dozens of members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime will be stopped from attending the London Olympics, as he pledged to make the event "the greatest show on Earth."

Cameron said that those subject to international travel bans and asset freezes would not be able to attend the sporting spectacle, which takes place from July 27-Aug. 12.

"I don't think we should punish the athletes for the sins of the regime, so Syria will be taking part in the games and that is right," Cameron told reporters, as he held talks with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, amid the organization's final inspection visit before the games.

"But let's be absolutely clear, Britain has led efforts within the European Union and elsewhere to institute asset bans, travel freezes and punishing sanctions against this despicable regime. Anyone covered by one of those travel bans will not be welcome in London," he said.

A total of 41 organizations and 127 individuals have had European Union sanctions imposed upon them, including Assad's British-born wife, Asma. Diplomats have conceded they could not prevent her from entering Britain, but insist they do not expect Asma to make any attempt to travel to the U.K.

Cameron said he, Rogge and London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe had used their talks to discuss transport, security planning and attempts to make sure ordinary people benefit from the legacy of the London Olympics.

The British leader -- who said he runs once a week and plays tennis once a week -- insisted a key goal was to raise public participation in sports, particularly among young people.

A key benefit from the Olympics would be "the inspiration people will feel when they see great British athletes, whether rowing in a race, riding on a bicycle or running on the track," Cameron said.

"It's well-known that this has a transformational effect ... the sight of Chris Hoy or someone like that has people in the shops saying 'I want to buy a bicycle, I want to get on my bike'," Cameron said, referring to the British cycling champion.

"That's the bit you can't touch, but it is very, very powerful and I think can bring the country together," he said.

Rogge also met with former British Olympic stars Denise Lewis, Darren Campbell and Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, who competed in equestrian events at the 1976 Olympics.

"London has raised the bar on how to deliver a lasting legacy. We can already see tangible results in the remarkable regeneration of east London," Rogge said.

The IOC delegation are meeting with London organizers through Friday to make checks on preparations, the 10th and final visit by the full coordination group since the British capital was awarded the games in July 2005.

"We are happy at the IOC," Rogge told reporters, when asked on London's readiness to host the events.

Coe told Cameron he was so happy with preparations so far that he "was delirious."