Olympic gag order: athletic politics.

Author:Mangu-Ward, Katherine
Position:Brief article

PRINCE CHARLES once referred to China's leaders as "appalling old waxworks," but the British Olympic Committee seems to find them intimidating enough.

"British athletes will have to sign a contract promising not to comment on any politically sensitive issues" during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, British Olympics Association spokesman Graham Nathan told CNN in February. They will be presented with the contract as soon as they qualify in Olympic trials, and athletes who violate the gag order by discussing, say, China's dismal human rights record can be barred from competition and put on the next plane home.

Officials say they are merely trying to comply with Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which "provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas." But critics note troubling parallels between this contract and a low point in British sporting history: The British soccer team, at the prodding of the...

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