French minister regrets ban on Olympic badge protest
The ban was imposed by the French National Olympic Committee and forbid athletes from wearing a badge calling for "a better world" at the Games.15 April 2008
PARIS - French Secretary of State for Sport Bernard Laporte on Tuesday said he regretted the decision by the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) not to allow athletes to wear a badge calling for "a better world" at the Beijing Games.
Amid widespread controversy over the allocation of the Games to Beijing given China's suppression of protests in Tibet, a group of French athletes had a fortnight ago said they planned to wear a badge that will express their support for human rights worldwide, especially in Tibet.
However, overnight Monday CNOSF chairman Henri Serandour told l'Equipe television that "one cannot wear a badge for some cause or another".
Serandour insisted that the French contingent will "respect the (Olympic) charter, which provides for no tangible demonstration of whatever during sporting events and during the opening and closing ceremonies".
Although the Olympic charter is clear on such issues Laporte said he nonetheless thought Serandour's comments a shame.
"I find it regrettable that one forbids the wearing of this badge," Laporte told French radio.
"I did not find this badge too aggressive, it did not attack China or anything like that. It took up an Olympic phrase 'for a better world' and the (Olympic) rings.
Laporte added, however, that he thought "it would have been better to call for the view of the IOC before" coming up with the badge idea.
"Perhaps that is what has troubled them," he mused.
"For those who really want to wear the badge they don't have to go to the Olympics," Laporte added.
Top French pole-vaulter Romain Mesnil was one of those behind the idea, and explained he thought the badge "will have a big impact and that it will turn into a worldwide movement".
Mesnil initially had proposed that competing athletes wear a green ribbon to express their concern over China's military crackdown on protest in Tibet, but that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had ruled that that would fall foul of the Olympic charter.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International's French branch added its voice to the controversy by deploring the badge ban.
In a statement Amnesty said: "We are opposed to initiatives aimed at restricting athletes having their say during their stay in China."
Amnesty called on the IOC to give a clear indication of its interpretation of the concept of freedom of expression and if need be publish clear guidelines on the subject for national Olympic committees.
[AFP / Expatica]