Olympians weigh politics

Some 625 China-bound U.S. athletes are targeted in a growing campaign by activist group Team Darfur to persuade athletes worldwide to use their voices in China to make a political point. U.S. Olympic Committee officials this year instituted mandatory “ambassador” seminars that teach about China and encourage athletes to think carefully about how best to represent their country. Yet USOC officials say they’ll let athletes decide for themselves whether to speak out on sensitive issues — as long as they stay mum at official Olympics sites, in accordance with International Olympic Committee rules.

The USOC stayed firm as government and Olympics officials in Europe, Britain and New Zealand recently moved toward silencing China-bound athletes. Freedom of speech and expression are “values of our country,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said. “As an Olympic committee, we would not restrict values that are consistent with what we stand for as a country. . . . It’s up to the athletes to make individual choices.”

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Helping homeland orphans

When 11-year-old Ana Dodson returned to her native Peru, she watched barefoot children scavenging through garbage for food. She stepped off a bus nearby. Orphans mobbed her. She gave them teddy bears — and saw herself in their faces.

A well-to-do Colorado family adopted Ana as an infant in 1992, and she moved from a mud-and-tin mountainside shantytown near Cusco to a radically different world: a two-story home in a foothills suburb west of Denver with private school, synagogue, horse-riding and sparkling shopping malls.

Today, four years after meeting those children in Cusco, Ana, now 16, is leading an effort to help them. She began a “Peruvian Hearts” campaign — part of an emerging trend in which U.S. teenagers launch aid projects. Going back to Peru also prompted Ana to track down her biological siblings and father — an unusual accomplishment in international adoptions. U.S. adults adopt about 20,000 children a year from low-income countries, a figure that has tripled since the early 1990s, records show. Children increasingly are visiting their birth countries to explore their roots. But adoption agency officials say few have found and forged relations with biological parents abroad.

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Soccer for the soul in Aurora

Familiar sport comforts growing community of African immigrants

Angolan immigrant Zacarias Paulo perched at the edge of the booth at Le Baobab restaurant, eyes fixed on a big-screen Hitachi as he watched Angola’s Black Antelopes pound Egypt’s Pharaohs in African Cup of Nations soccer.

The Africans come from nations across the continent and, though fewer in number than their counterparts from Mexico, are multiplying rapidly and sinking roots. Census data obtained last week indicated about 16,585 African immigrants reside in the area, which is double the number in 2000.

Their latest oasis opened off a once-blighted bit of East Colfax Avenue is the crimson-walled Le Baobab restaurant in Aurora, run by Congolese refugees Clarisse and Sylvin Mberry.

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