Tuesday, February 12, 2008

USOC plans no additional free-speech measures in Beijing

Committee will ask American athletes to comply with international
Olympic rules regarding free speech in Beijing, but won’t impose
the extra measures the British federation has been criticized for.

International Olympic Committee rules state “no kind of
demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is
permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”

The British Olympic Association plans to require its athletes to
sign an agreement barring them from making politically sensitive
remarks or gestures during the Olympics, a policy that was widely
criticized as a measure that went beyond the Olympic charter.

The USOC has never had any rules that would be any more
restrictive than what’s in the Olympic charter, spokesman Darryl
Seibel said Monday.

“The Olympic charter applies to athletes from every country,
and we use the charter as our guide,” Seibel said. “We will not
impose prohibitions on free speech with our delegation. We do
expect our delegation to comply with the relevant provisions of the
Olympic charter.”

After receiving criticism, British federation spokesman Graham
Newsom said there had been “no intention of gagging anyone,” and
that the BOA was simply trying to mirror the rule in the Olympic
charter. BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said the final agreement
that athletes will sign will show that the intention is not to
restrict athletes’ freedom of speech.

Human rights groups, political activists and other observers are
concerned over whether the Chinese government will allow free
speech during the Olympics.

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