So Much for Free Speech at the Olympics

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Political Challenges

No political activism permitted at Beijing Games: IOC
7 May 2008

dnkf00041943-200.jpgThe International Olympic Committee is seeking to tighten it’s grip on potential political activism at the Beijing Summer Games in August.

Authorities are bracing themselves for widespread protests following the largely unsuccessful worldwide passage of the Olympic flame.

The IOC said overnight that it was now seeking to clarify rules relating to political activism by athletes, including high-level scrutiny of athletes comments and coverage.

It comes as Australian cyclist Cadel Evans wore a ‘Free Tibet’ t-shirt while competing during the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in Belgium last month.

The IOC says that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

However the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) appears at odds with their International counterparts.

The AOC has previously said that athletes will be allowed to write blogs and answer reporters questions inside mixed zones and press conferences, but not at actual sporting venues or events.

“The conduct of participants at all sites, areas and venues, all actions, reactions, attitudes or manifestations of any kind by a person or group of persons, including but not limited to their look, external appearance, clothing, gestures, and written or oral statements,” an IOC guideline reads.

A letter to all athletes and sporting bodies states that while journalists may try to ask questions relating to China’s human rights, those competing were advised to ignore them.

Those breaking the rules face deportation from China and losing their Olympic accreditation. Anyone can also be held by Chinese authorities for up to three-days without their Embassy being informed.

About 15,000 media are expected to descend on Beijing for the Games in August.