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.