More than 100 athletes including 110m hurdles world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba and Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic have signed an appeal to Chinese president Hu Jintao to observe human rights, reported dpa.
"We are asking you to respect human rights in China in order to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation," said the appeal from the Sports For Peace initiative and supported by Amnesty International and the International Campaign for Tibet.
It was printed around the world in the International Herald Tribune daily on Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
"We all hope that the Olympic Summer Games in China will be a great success and that the Olympic ideals will come to life," said the appeal to Hu.
"That is why we are asking you: to enable a peaceful solution for the issue of Tibet and other conflicts in your country with respect to fundamental principles of human rights.
"To protect freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of opinion in your country, including Tibet. To ensure that human rights defenders are no longer intimidated or imprisoned. To stop the death penalty.
"China is the focus of worldwide attention. Your decision on these issues will determine the success of the Olympic Games and the image the world will have of China in the future," it said.
Apart from the gold medal contender Robles and the world champion Vlasic, the signatories include American 400m ace LaShawn Merritt, compatriot three-time long jump world champion Dwight Philipps of the US, the discipline's reigning world champion Irving Saladino of Panama and 800m world champion Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya.