Gordon Brown will not attend Olympics opening

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Gordon Brown will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics although he will be there for the closing of the Games, Downing Street confirmed tonight.

A No 10 spokeswoman said it had always been his intention that he would go only for the closing ceremony - when Britain accepts the Olympic torch from China ahead of the 2012 Games in London - and that the move did not represent a boycott.

"Our reasons for going are exactly the came as they have always been. We still think it is the right thing to do. There is no change in our position," the spokeswoman.

Mr Brown publicly accepted an invitation to the Games in January during his official visit to China.

His spokesman confirmed officially that he would be going for the closing ceremony at a briefing for political journalists on 19 March.

However the news was overshadowed by Mr Brown's announcement that he had agreed to meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, when he visits Britain in May, and attracted little attention.

As a result, some MPs have assumed that when Mr Brown said he was going to the Games he was referring to the opening ceremony.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg tonight urged Mr Brown to press the Chinese to abandon plans for the Olympic torch relay to go through Tibet, in the face of bitter opposition from Free Tibet campaigners.

"From his reluctance to bring up human rights during his recent visit to China, to his last minute agreement to meet the Dalai Lama, the Prime Minister has failed to show real leadership on this vital issue," he said.

"He should now follow his decision not to attend the opening ceremony by insisting that the Chinese quickly enter into negotiations with the Dalai Lama and abandon the needlessly provocative plan to parade the torch through Tibet."