International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge has shrugged off the controversy that Steven Spielberg created by withdrawing as the Beijing Games' artistic advisor, and said the IOC is "a sporting, not a political, association".
Rogge told broadcaster France 24 in Paris on Friday that the IOC was not made out to play a political role and that he did not fear a boycott of the Olympics.
"I do not fear a boycott because most statesmen know well that boycotts only punish those boycotting" an event, he said.
He warned athletes that they would be punished if they tried to use the Games as a political stage, and said "one should not call on the IOC to solve the world's problems".
Spielberg withdrew as the Games' artistic advisor on Wednesday, citing concerns over the violence in Darfur and linking it to China's ties with Sudan.
In response, Rogge said: "His (Spielberg's) absence will not harm the quality of the Games. The Beijing Games are much stronger than individuals."
China said on Thursday that linking the Darfur issue to the Games is against the Olympic spirit, which separates sports from politics, and would not solve the problem in the Sudan region.
Some athletes, too, have insisted that the Olympics should be free of politics. Athletes are looking forward to competitions, not politics, at the Beijing Games, Jamaica's Usain Bolt said at a promotion event on Friday.
"I didn't know a lot about that," Bolt said, referring to Spielberg's decision to quit. "But I think (for athletes) this is mainly about working hard and getting to the Olympics. And we really look forward to it."
The 21-year-old Jamaican lost to Tyson Gay of the US in the men's 200m at last year's world championships, but he is expecting a win the gold in Beijing.
Justine Henin corroborated Bolt, saying: "Politics and sport must remain separate."
The world's top tennis player said on Tuesday: "Athletes must be focused on their job, which is sport which is our passion. We all hope to bring joy to the people watching the Games. Winning in Athens gave me so much pleasure. The Olympics is very high for me in 2008" too.