German Olympians won't gag athletes at Beijing games

German Olympic officials won't gag their athletes over politically sensitive issues at the Beijing Games like the British Olympic Association appeared to attempt. "Our athletes are citizens who are aware of their responsibilities, but they can and will be able to express their opinions," said German Olympic Committee (DOSB) spokesman Gerd Graus on Tuesday.

Graus said that German athletes must adhere to the Olympic Charter in which "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas."

Other countries such as Belgium and the United States have also indicated that they plan no measures beyond the Olympic charter at the Beijing Games, meaning that athletes could speak freely on sensitive issues, such as human rights in China, the death penalty or Tibet, outside the venues.

"The Olympic charter applies to athletes from every country, and we use the charter as our guide. 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," US Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said.

The issue made headlines on Sunday when a BOA draft of the athletes' contract was made public, including a new clause outlawing politically sensitive remarks during the Beijing Games.

A public outcry followed, which seemingly forced the BOA to back down.

Spokesman Graham Newsom said on Monday the clause "may have been open to misinterpretation" but that the BOA had "no intention of gagging anyone." BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said that the final athletes' agreement will reflect the Olympic charter.

Copyright © 2008 DPA

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