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Greens win gold on Olympics human rights issue

19th February 2008

Greens win gold on Olympics human rights issue

The Green Party welcomes the U-turn today from the Government and the New Zealand Olympic Association to give New Zealand Olympic athletes the right to speak freely about what they see in China.

"We're glad Sports Minister Clayton Cosgrove has seen sense, and dropped his untenable position that the Olympic Committee's ban was for the athlete's own protection," Green Party's Sports Spokesperson, Keith Locke says.

"There was a huge groundswell of Kiwi opinion to let our athletes speak, and I am glad the Olympic Committee and the Government have taken it on board.

"In the House today, the Minister conceded that their contractual obligations will now not go beyond the Olympic Charter, which only forbids political demonstrations at games venues, but not personal expression of opinion.

"Some concerns still remain. In the House, the Minister was unable to confirm whether our athletes will be free to write blogs, which is currently forbidden by a separate clause [7.1 (d) (i)] in their contract.

"Australian athletes in Beijing will be free to write blogs, and there is no good reason why New Zealand athletes should not enjoy the same freedom.

"One major reason for the Olympics being awarded to Beijing seven years ago was to shine a light on the human rights situation and thus help advance the principles of freedom so central to the Olympic movement.

"By trying to muzzle our athletes, the New Zealand Olympic Committee was letting down those around the world who are trying to use the Olympics to help improve China's human rights.

"Athletes have minds as well as bodies. It is wonderful that the New Zealand Olympic Committee and the Government have now come around to our position - which all along has been to trust our athletes to speak their minds if they feel so inclined, about the human rights situation in China," Mr Locke says.

ENDS

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