Amnesty Calls on Germany, IOC to Clarify Beijing Protest Rules | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.07.2008
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Amnesty Calls on Germany, IOC to Clarify Beijing Protest Rules

Human rights organization Amnesty International called Monday, July 14 for the clarification of rules of conduct for German athletes traveling to the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Policemen detain a protester as he holds a banner at the beginning of the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2008 games in ancient Olympia, Greece, on Monday March 24, 2008

Amnesty wants it to be made clear how far athletes can go in their protests

"We welcome it if athletes take a position on human rights," said Barbara Lochbihler, the secretary general of Amnesty International Deutschland in a statement issued in Berlin, "but it must be clear what is allowed and where."

Lochbihler called on the International Olympic Committee to clarify the existing regulations on human rights protests and demonstrations of support "so sports officials and athletes don't let (the Olympics) down."

She added that, in Amnesty's opinion, the campaigning for human rights should be allowed everywhere.

"If an athlete says he or she is a supporter of human rights then this doesn't mean they are being anti-Chinese," she said. "There is no political propaganda in wearing Sports for Human Rights wristbands."

The wearing of the green and blue plastic wristbands -- designed by a group of German athletes -- in competition venues is prohibited by current Olympic rules.

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.

On the other hand, some countries -- like Germany and Italy -- have left it up to the discretion of their athletes to protest and lend their names to campaigns in defense of human rights if they so desire.

Germany leaves protests to athletes' discretion

An athlete models the official sportwear for the German Olympic team

The DOSB leaves it up to their athletes to decide

"We regard our athletes as responsible individuals who are free to express their attitudes and opinions," Michael Schirp from the German Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB) told DW-WORLD.DE. "In the athlete's agreement, which is formulated for the German Team at every Olympic Games, there will be included information referring to rule 51 of the Olympic Charter. It is then up to them."

Lochbihler added that Amnesty International would not be offering advice to athletes as to what they should and shouldn't do while in Beijing.

Lochbihler did criticize, however, the list of rules published by the IOC concerning the behavior and conduct of foreign visitors in China.

In an open letter to the President of the DOSB and IOC vice-president, Thomas Bach, Lochbihler wrote that some of the rules were very vague and open to interpretation.

She urged Bach to revise the guidelines so visitors fully understood what was allowed and that no-one fell foul of the Chinese authorities through any misunderstanding of the rules.

One example she pointed out concerned so-called "offensive banners".

"At no point is the definition of what is offensive given," Lochbihler wrote in her letter.

Germany sends 435-strong team to China

The DOSB meanwhile has nominated 435 athletes for next month's Beijing Olympics, a team slightly smaller than 2004 in Athens.

The DOSB on Tuesday named 231 athletes after picking the other 204 at two previous occasions.

The numbers make the team smaller than the 452 athletes who competed in Athens, and a little bigger than the 428 who went to Sydney 2000.

"We have a strong team. We want to be successful, we want to combine performance and morale and have only clean success. We want to be good ambassadors of our country," said Thomas Bach.

Members of Germany's women's field hockey team run around the field with the flag after defeating the Netherlands 2-1 in the women's gold medal field hockey game at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004.

The German women's hockey team won gold in 2004

Germany came sixth in the Athens 2004 medal table with 13 gold medals, 16 silver and 20 bronze. Its overall 49 medals haul was good enough for joint fourth place with Australia, with the US leading the table with 36-39-27 medals and the overall list with 102 medals.

However, it was some way off their best performance since the reunification which came in the 1992 renewal in Barcelona where they managed 82, 33 of them gold.

The DOSB has set its team a target of at least equaling their medals performance in the 2004 edition.

Their best hopes of gold this time round are American-born Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum in show-jumping and the German women's football team.

The nominees include the basketball team around NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, which still has to qualify for the August 8-24 Games in Beijing, with a tournament set for this week in Athens.

Discus throw world champion Franka Dietzsch has been nominated despite injury. Tennis player Rainer Schuettler, a recent Wimbledon semi-finalist, and swimmer Vipa Bernhardt, who has reached an injunction to be included, will learn about their final fate Sunday.

Injured Fitschen stays at home

However, the European 10,000 meters champion Jan Fitschen will miss the Beijing Olympics due to a leg injury.

"That's it. I would have liked to participate. But I can't run without pain," Fitschen was quoted as saying on the website of the German athletics federation DLV.

Fitschen aimed to meet the Olympic qualifying standard on Sunday at a meet in Belgium after being sidelined with other injury woes earlier in the season. But a new lower-leg injury prompted him to end the season prematurely.

Fitschen was a surprise European champion 2006 in Gothenburg.

The nomination deadline set by the International Olympic Committee for all teams is next week Wednesday, July 23.

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