At last, an article by Ian Bell that I agree with (Essay, February 16). He's absolutely right in what he says about China and this year's Beijing Olympics. The nearest comparison is the 1936 Berlin Olympics, used by Hitler to showcase German might.

It appears we've learned nothing from history.

The Sudanese government is immune to pressure from the west and the African Union. Only China has the influence to persuade it to resolve the catastrophe in Darfur, and China refuses to act. What's more important: people's lives and homes, or games?

In Tibet, China still rules with an iron fist and continues to destroy Tibetan culture. The rest of the world looks the other way, just as the UN did when the Dalai Lama asked for help as his country was overrun by Red Army troops in the 1950s.

As I understand it, the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Beijing in the belief that China would improve its record on human rights, both externally and internally. In fact, little has changed, and it really isn't acceptable for the IOC and world leaders just to shrug their shoulders and say: "Well, what can we do?"

Last month Gordon Brown and serried ranks of British businessmen visited China. I was very disappointed that human rights weren't on the agenda. Business and trade are important, but so are human rights, freedoms and life. China will change if she has to; the rest of the world must give her reasons to do so.

Doug Maughan, 52 Menteith View, Dunblane.

In his angry essay, Mr Bell fails to see the thousand toiling athletes behind the big-banner bombast and blether that become the media's Olympic Games. In doing so he commits his own totalitarian tautology: ban the games. This will not hinder or hurt the Beijing bosses but rather punish the thousands of athletes who, despite the games of politicians and assorted hangers-on, aspire through rigorous self-sacrifice to achieve the goal of being Olympians.

Athletes must come first in any political argument on the Olympics. Yes, even in the face of corrupt commissars and crabbit columnists who share regime vision over the sacrosanct rights of the individual.

Athletes demand of themselves the almost impossible. For that personal effort their reward is the right to compete at the Olympics and to share that celebration with the world.

All the rest is lies.

Thom Cross, 64 Market Place, Carluke.