02/11/2008, 00.00
Send to a friend

Beijing applauds the gag order on athletes. Great Britain is reconsidering it

Chinese organisers of the Olympic Games want to eliminate any "political act" on the part of the competitors. Controversy in Great Britain over a contract with athletes that obliges them to silence, on the penalty of exclusion from the competitions. Human rights groups condemn the attempt to block freedom of speech. The British Olympic committee will review the contract.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The organisers of the Beijing Olympics reaffirm that it is important to prohibit any political protest at the games, after the attempt to impose silence upon British athletes, at the penalty of exclusion from the competitions.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has made the British Olympic athletes sign a contract in which they pledge not to comment on sensitive political subjects during the Olympics in Beijing, from August 8 to 24, 2008.  The same newspaper affirms that the BOA has threatened to exclude all athletes who do not sign.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, has said that China will welcome all of the athletes.  He expects, however, that all of the competitors will follow the Olympic charter designed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to which political actions are prohibited at the games. "I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard."

For at least 20 years, British athletes have been required to sign a contract in order to participate in the games.  But this year, for the first time, a clause has been added that bans the athletes from commenting on political topics.  Any signatory who breaks the silence will be sent home.

Human rights groups in China accuse the BOA of betraying the Olympic spirit and of interpreting in too drastic a way the indication of section 51 of the Olympic charter, which prohibits manifestations of "political propaganda".

Amnesty International defends freedom of speech for all athletes "without the risk or threat of being expelled from participating".

The spokesman for the human rights group Liberty has declared that it would be against the British and Olympic spirit "to attempt to muzzle the speech and conscience of athletes attending these Games. The price of hosting such a totemic event is greater political scrutiny. Sport should spread international values, not totalitarian ones".

The head of the BOA, Simon Clegg, has apologised to the public for the controversy.  He has said that his organisation has "no desire to restrict athletes' freedom of speech", and he has promised a review of the clause in the contract.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Synod for the Amazon: Card Stella hails the ‘great beauty’ of celibacy in a priest’s life
24/10/2019 17:56
The 2012 London Games begin in a time of crisis, amid oddities and gaffes
The captain of the Indian Soccer team boycotts the Olympic torch
After Bush, Wen Jiabao also target of shoe throwing
London "dialogues" on rights, Beijing arrests Tibetans


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”