German athletes explore Olympic protest options -- within the rules
Some are considering wearing orange robes reminiscent of the Tibetan monks.
Hamburg -- Orange bathrobes have been mentioned as German athletes are exploring methods to express their protest over China's actions in Tibet within Olympic rules at the Beijing Games.
News reports on Sunday quoted water polo player Soeren Mackeben as saying that his team is considering wearing "bath robes in orange, the color of the (Tibetan) monks."
Mackeben said wearing the robes was not compulsory as they are not part of the official German Olympic kit for the Aug. 8-24 Games.
He insisted he will not breach the Olympic Charter and express his opinion on Tibet outside Olympic areas in the Chinese capital.
A German network of athletes has the same in mind with a silicon armband in green and blue with the writing "Sport for Human Rights."
"We will express our protest during the Games not in reference to Tibet but in a general way concerning abiding to human rights and freedom of press. That is because the Olympic Charter outlaws any kind of political propaganda at the Olympics," said a statement on the network's website www.netzathleten.de.
Canoeing Olympic bronze-medallist Stefan Pfannmoeller, one of the initiators of the network, said that athletes can’t turn a blind eye to the systematic abuse of human rights and freedom of press.
"As athletes we carry a big responsibility and must show it. If not us, who else," he said.
But the issue is delicate as athletes face punishment from the International Olympic Committee in the case of protest action in the Olympic areas.
The Olympic Charter says in article 51 that "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas." Violations can lead to disqualification and loss of Olympic accreditation.
American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked out of the 1968 Games after their Black Power protest at the 200 meter victory ceremony. Less than two weeks ago Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic had to leave the European swim championships after wearing a T-shirt with the writing "Kosovo is Serbia."
The incidents show that athletes will walk a thin line with any kind of visible or spoken protests at venues and other areas.
German lawyer Dirk-Reiner Martens, who is one of the judges at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) told Die Welt daily that this is necessary. He said that he did not envy his colleagues in Beijing because of possible tough decisions to make on ethically impeccable athletes, but insisted that "anyone who competes voluntarily at the Olympics must respect the rules."
Sebastian Schulte, a spokesman of the German Olympic team and part of the rowing eighth, said that athletes won’t overstep the rules.
"I will not undermine the chances of my crew by voicing my opinion in a careless way, but I will express myself within the rules.
"Sport can not be misused as the last resort to continue a war with other methods, but as mature athletes we will look closely into what the Olympic Charter allows and use our options within this framework for our protests," said Schulte.
DPA with Expatica