Athletes answering questions in the mixed
zone concerning the Tibet issue will comply with Olympic rules but waiving
Tibetan flags during medal ceremonies at the Beijing Games could get them into
- so far unspecified - trouble.
National Olympic Committees were on Tuesday studying new guidelines sent by the International Olympic Committee on the sensitive issue.
Athletes will be allowed to answer questions in mixed zones and news conferences. The IOC said it would look closely at athletes' appearance, their gestures and clothing, but decide on possible sanctions individually if violations of the Olympic Charter occur.
The IOC says in Olympic Charter rule 51.3 that "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
The bylaw of the same article says: "No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games.
"Any violation of the provisions of the present clause may result in disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned. The decisions of the IOC Executive Board regarding this matter shall be final."
The Tibet affair has prompted athletes to plan protests against China at the Games. French athletes are considering wearing a button with the slogan For A Better world and Germans an armband with the writing Sports For Human Rights.
The IOC did not refer to either of these planned protests, with German Olympic Committee (DOSB) head and IOC vice-president Thomas Bach saying that individual cases are not mentioned because there were too many options.
DOSB general director Michael Vesper named the IOC guidelines liberal and said that similar rules apply to other big sports events such as the football World Cup.
"Every athlete can voice his option over human rights in China and the Tibet issue in news conferences, in the venue mixed zones or media centres," said Vesper.
These are Olympic areas as well, but IOC president Jacques Rogge has named freedom of speech "a human right" which athletes have.
The IOC also reiterated in its letter that the Olympics are a "great sports festival" and "not a stage for different kinds of political statements about issues such as armed conflicts, regional differences, religious disputes and many others."
But there is the famous political statement by African-American sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 200 metres victory ceremony 1968 in Mexico City when they raised a black-gloved fist into the air and they bowed their head, the gesture of the Black Power movement.
The IOC was outraged, suspended the two and pressured the US Olympic Committee into kicking them out of the Olympic Village. But they were allowed to keep their medals, DPA reported.