Clooney Presses Omega to Speak Out on Darfur

George Clooney is putting pressure on Omega Watches to speak out against China’s foreign policy in Sudan, the BBC reports.

Clooney promotes Omega Watches, which is one of the worldwide Olympic partners for the Beijing games.

“I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega,” Clooney was quoted as saying on the BBC Web site on Tuesday. “I have and will go to the places I and China do business and ask for help.”

Clooney’s intervention follows the decision of U.S. film director Steven Spielberg to withdraw as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Games in protest at the situation in Darfur.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and two million forced from their homes in the five-year conflict in Sudan.

China has been criticized for its trade and military links with the Sudanese Government, which has been accused of backing militias that have raped and murdered in Darfur.

In a statement issued to BBC Sport, Clooney said in a statement to BBC Sport that he took Olympic athletes Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe to Beijing to meet with the heads of the Chinese Government.

“I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the Government of Sudan,” Clooney told BBC.

Omega Watches is one of 12 “worldwide Olympic partners” for Beijing and has been the official timekeeper for every Olympics since 1932.

The company lists Clooney—an award-winning actor, director, producer, and screenwriter—as an “ambassador” for its brand on its official website.

“We have indeed discussed this issue with Mr. Clooney,” Nicholas Hayek, the chief executive of the Swatch Group which owns Omega, told the BBC. “We have full respect for his strong engagement in the fight for the good cause and share his opinion, especially concerning Darfur, and we are proud to work with a person who has such high ethical views.

“It is our policy not to get involved in politics because it would not serve the cause of the sport which is one most noble human endeavors for creating understanding and peace all over the world.

“This was also the reason that we were present in Moscow during the 1980 Olympics despite the boycott by the western world, and we provided our services to the athletes during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles when the Communist bloc boycotted the Games.

“Our role with our 300 on-site timekeepers was always clear of politics. We are partners of the athletes and the IOC, not of governments.”

When asked by the BBC whether Omega would speak out on China’s association with the Sudanese Government, Hayek responded: “Of course, it is a continuous process but we do it the Swiss way of ‘little strokes fell great oaks’.

“We make our point directly to our high-level contacts and not by jumping in at every headline.”

Hayek also confirmed that Omega will continue to monitor the situation in Darfur and China’s involvement.