Australian Olympic chief Coates says podium protests possible in Beijing

Other News Materials 10 May 2008 08:57 (UTC +04:00)

Australian Olympic chief John Coates said Saturday he believes there is a good chance some athletes will launch protests on the medal podium at the Beijing Olympics, AP reported.

"It is a real possibility," Coates said following the Australian Olympic Committee's annual general meeting.

China has been heavily criticized by world leaders for their human rights record and for their recent crackdown in Tibet. The Olympic torch's journey around the world was marred by protesters ahead of the Aug. 8-24 Games.

Coates said there could be podium demonstrations in Beijing similar to the black power protest on the medal podium by American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists and bowed their heads during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Both were expelled from the games.

Coates' comments came as the AOC loosened its protest guidelines for Australian athletes at the Beijing Games. The new guidelines, announced at the annual general meeting, expand on protest rules issued during the week by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The AOC says athletes must respect the dignity of the host nation China, their fellow athletes and the Olympic charter.

But it said athletes were free to express their opinions on Tibet, human rights and other such issues in media interviews and online blogs, but cannot place protest signs or propaganda on clothing or equipment.

It said any breach of the Olympic charter would result in disqualification from the Games.