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French Olympic committee capitulates to pressure from IOC and China to prohibit athletes from wearing "For a better world" badge

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by the decision of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) to prohibit French athletes from wearing a badge saying "For a better world" during the Beijing Olympic Games.

"The International Olympic Committee has clearly imposed its hard line on CNOSF president Henri Sérandour and forced him to take a bad decision," Reporters Without Borders said. "The right of the athletes to free expression has been sacrificed in a complete capitulation to the demands of the Chinese organisers."

The organisation added: "The message chosen by the French athletes was taken from the Olympic charter. Why do the IOC and CNOSF prefer the virulently nationalistic and anti-West campaign under way in China to the French athletes' peaceful and universalist message? This is a harsh rebuff for Sérandour and French sports minister Bernard Laporte."

Reporters Without Borders urges athletes not to comply with the Chinese government's orders and to go to Beijing with the press freedom organisation's badges saying "Freedom" in Chinese characters. Reporters Without Borders had these badges made in the five colours of the Olympic rings, and they are meant to be worn by athletes, journalists and members of the public going to Beijing.

The CNOSF decision was announced on 14 April 2008 by Sérandour on the French television station Equipe TV. "You cannot wear a badge for this or that cause," he said. "We are going to respect the charter, which says no concrete demonstration of any kind during the sports events or during the processions in the opening and closing ceremonies."

The proposed badge was chosen two weeks ago by the French athletes with the agreement of the CNOSF and the support of Laporte. It shows the Olympic rings and the words "France" and "For a better world." The athletes had intended to wear it during the 8-24 August games in Beijing in a show of support for human rights.

But, after travelling to Beijing, IOC president Jacques Rogge ruled out the idea of a French badge, saying he had promised China that athletes would not express their views during the games.

The opening chapter of the Olympic Charter says: "The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised in accordance with Olympism and its values."

Article 51-3 of the charter says "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

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