UK Bars Olympic Athletes from Making Political Gestures at Beijing Games

British Olympic athletes must sign a new clause in their contracts prohibiting politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Beijing Games.

"The reality is, given the level of political scrutiny of the world's media on these games and the way China will handle them, the BOA felt it was sensible and proper to flag that rule to our athletes," British Olympic Association communications director Graham Mewson said Sunday.

The International Olympic Committee already has a rule that states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they will be free to speak their mind.

The BOA is making the change because China's government is widely regarded as sensitive to criticism over issues such as its human rights record and Tibet, Mewson said.

British athletes have been required to sign the 32-page BOA contract for 20 years before competing in the Olympics, but this is the first time such a clause is being added.

Mewson said the clause will not bar British athletes from "honestly answering" questions they are asked during interviews at the Aug. 8-24 games about "politically sensitive issues."

"An athlete who decides to lift up his team shirt to show a 'Free Tibet' one below it, that's very different," Mewson said.