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  • British Olympians Won't Be Silenced in Beijing


    02/11/08

    BOA chair Colin Moynihan: "No muzzling" for British athletes in Beijing. (Getty Images)  
    (ATR) The chairman of the British Olympic Association has hit back at accusations that the national Olympic committee is attempting to gag athletes from commenting on political issues during the Beijing Games.

    "There is no muzzling and there will be no restriction on the freedom of speech of athletes," Colin Moynihan tells Around the Rings.

    "What will happen is that there will be an agreement between the athletes and the BOA which will reflect the Olympic Charter," he said.

    He said this will focus on prohibiting propaganda and demonstrations but "doesn't in any way restrict freedom of speech".

    Moynihan was responding to reports in British media claiming that the BOA would ask its athletes to sign a contract which featured a clause banning them from speaking about political or human rights issues in China this summer.

    He admitted that a draft contract for British athletes had featured an incorrect interpretation of the Olympic Charter, but this clause had now been withdrawn.

    The final contract which will be signed by athletes in the coming months "will reflect the IOC position", he confirmed. Team GB members must sign a contract as a condition of taking part in the Games.

    As chair of the BOA, he said it was "inconceivable" that it would countenance any restriction on the freedom of speech, "not least because as an athlete working towards the 1980 Games I spoke out very strongly against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the against the boycott that the government of the day was seeking to impose on the athletes, and went and competed in Moscow."

    "The importance of respecting the right for athletes to have freedom of speech
    (Getty Images)  
    is critical to me," he said.

    “That said the IOC is absolutely right to stop propaganda or demonstrations taking place during the Games, which is built into the rules of participation as set down in the Olympic Charter, and I support and endorse the IOC's position.”

    Moynihan said he now considers the matter closed.

    His comments to ATR came on the opening day of a meeting in Lausanne hosted by the IOC which is focusing on the autonomy of the Olympic and sports movement.

    Nearly 200 sports leaders drawn from the IOC, continental Olympic associations, international federations and national Olympic committees are gathered at the symposium which concludes Tuesday.

    With reporting from Mark Bisson in Lausanne.

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