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Smells Like Olympic Spirit

No matter the outcome of the 2008 Everest season, the chaos has begged several questions. Not least, how does the closure of the highest mountain on Earth jibe with the Olympic spirit? The Olympic Charter states: "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) partners with the International Federation of Climbing Organizations (UIAA), which has members in 62 countries. The IOC declined to comment on the ban, while the UIAA said it "regrets the decision by the government of China to close the north side of Everest" but supports its aim "to carry the Olympic Torch to the summit."

Guides, for their part, reported feeling misled by the Chinese from the start. Last October, Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, tried to reassure nervous outfitters that Everest would be open following a meeting in Lhasa with the CTMA. "There are many rumors circulating in [the] media that Mount Everest will be closed to climb from the Tibet side," he said. "These rumors are false."

Perhaps sensing trouble brewing, China changed its mind after the meeting. But one UIAA commission member told ADVENTURE that the ban was "more than a little convenient for the Chinese," since it made it difficult for pro-Tibet demonstrators to alter their plans and disrupt the torch relay. It also left outfitters scrambling to manage the dangers of a shortened season and a single, crowded route to the top. "Everest," according to Benitez, "is a tea kettle waiting to boil over."

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