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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 09:04 GMT
Olympic gag row leads to review
Beijing Olympics
China has been criticised for its human rights record
British Olympic officials have insisted there is no intention to gag athletes from making political comment in China during the 2008 Games in Beijing.

UK Olympians had been required to sign contracts which would have prohibited political demonstrations or propaganda.

But the British Olympic Association (BOA) has said it will now look again at the wording of the draft agreement.

Chief executive Simon Clegg said the BOA had "no desire to restrict athletes' freedom of speech".

For the last 20 years team members have been obliged to sign a contract as a condition of taking part in the Games.

But for the first time a clause had been inserted into the Team Members Agreement stating athletes must not comment on politically-sensitive issues during the event in Beijing.

BOA officials said they had wanted to draw their athletes' attention to the International Olympic Committee charter's rules on political demonstration.

For us to sort of gag ourselves is a real abdication of our moral responsibility

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg

China has been criticised for its human rights record and the BOA said the clause was intended to prevent organised protests like the 'black power' salute made by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Games in Mexico.

Clegg added: "I accept that the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA'S Team Members Agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.

"This is not our intention and the final Agreement will reflect this."

Clegg's comment came after Opposition politicians and human rights organisations had accused the BOA of pandering to the Chinese.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told BBC1's Politics Show: "We have to be very clear with the Chinese: they now play a significant role in the world economy and international affairs.

"That brings certain domestic responsibilities with it and I think for us to sort of gag ourselves is a real abdication of our moral responsibility to push for human rights wherever they are being abused."

A spokesman for the human rights group Liberty said: "It would be both un-British and un-Olympian 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."

On Monday, Beijing Olympic organisers said they supported a ban on political protests.

Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesman Sun Weide said: "I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard.

"Beijing welcomes all athletes from around the world to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games and we have been trying hard to create the best possible conditions for athletes to do so."



SEE ALSO
Beijing decision defended by IOC
08 Feb 08 |  Olympics & Olympic sport
China admits Games worker deaths
28 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Olympics stir mixed emotions in China
02 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific


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