Dismay after ban on human rights badge for French Olympic athletes

Other News Materials 15 April 2008 15:36 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - French Sports Minister Bernard Laporte said Tuesday that he "regretted" the decision by the French National Olympic Committee to forbid the country's athletes from wearing a pro-human rights badge at this summer's Games in Beijing.

"First of all, I don't find the badge very aggressive," Laporte told Radio Classique. "It attacks neither China nor anything else. It displays an Olympic phrase, it displays the Olympic rings."

The proposed badge shows the multicoloured Olympic rings and the phrase "For a Better World."

On Monday, the head of the French Olympic Committee, Henri Sarandour, announced that French athletes would not be able to wear the badge at the Games, as had been planned.

"You can not put on a badge for this cause, another badge for another cause," he told L'Equipe TV. "We will respect the (Olympic) Charter, which says: no visible display of anything during the sports events and during the opening and closing ceremonies."

French athletes had announced on April 4 that they had all agreed to wear the badge as a response to the crackdown on pro-Tibet demonstrators.

At the time, Laporte had praised the idea as "simply the best possible response and, above all, an excellent solution."

The head of the press-freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, Rober Menard, reacted angrily to the ban on the badge.

"It's a little pathetic. What a lack of courage," the web site of Le Nouvel Observateur quoted him as saying. "The phrase 'For a Better World' comes from the Olympic Charter itself. Even this the National Olympic Committee is incapable of supporting in the face of the Chinese authorities. What a capitulation!"

Reporters Without Borders has been at the forefront of French protests against the Chinese repression of Tibetan demonstrations and has called for a boycott of the August 8 opening ceremonies.

In a related development, French radio reported Tuesday that, as what is seen as a response to the tumultuous welcome given to the Olympic torch in Paris, Chinese authorities have stiffened visa requirements for French nationals wishing to travel to the country for the Olympics.