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U.S. Athletes Discuss Beijing Olympic Games Controversy
Published April 15, 2008
|Finch Does Not Plan To Make Political
Statement During Beijing Olympics
YOUR CHOICE: In Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick reports U.S. athletes have “taken a course sponsored by the [USOC], whose officials have been stressing the need for Americans … to be as inoffensive as possible.” The session, conducted by S.F.-based global relationship organization Cultural Savvy, “was aimed at familiarizing the athletes with ... China’s cultural and political history and the kind of questions they might expect as a result.” Women’s soccer team F Heather O’Reilly: “Over and over, the USOC told us to speak our minds.” Gymnast David Durante: "We were given the right to say whatever we wanted to.” However, no U.S. athletes have “indicated they were planning to make a political gesture or align themselves with those battling any particular ill” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15). Several athletes said that “to expect them to perform at a high level while also getting involved in the unfolding political drama was to expect too much.” Women’s soccer team F Abby Wambach: “That’s a lot of responsibility, to win a gold medal and also to have a political view” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/15). Wambach added that she has been “contacted by some protest groups, and the players said they’re humans, with all sorts of human political opinions, but that they’re not necessarily looking to man the barricades.” O’Reilly: “Not every athlete wants to be an activist” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/14).
Mendoza Admits To Having
Contemplated Possible Podium Protest
LET'S HEAR IT: In Colorado Springs, Milo Bryant writes, “If an athlete wants to use the Olympic stage to shout to the world about her feelings concerning the human injustices taking place in various spots throughout the world, then let her do it. She has earned that opportunity.” Peaceful protests “are fine. An athlete does or says something. The media reports it. The word gets out. That’s the way it should work” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 4/15). In Chicago, Mike Downey writes under the header, "Olympians Should Speak Their Minds On China." Downey: "You hope they won't shut their eyes, cup their ears and zip their lips" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/15). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes it is “only fair to let all athletes going to Beijing speak their minds and protest peacefully if they want. … More power to Miranda, Mendoza and their protesting cohorts. Because to believe sports and politics don’t mix, especially at the Olympic level, is a hopelessly romantic view” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/15). However, in DC, Ryan O’Halloran writes the majority of athletes said that the political protests surrounding the Games are “not their problem” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/15). The AP's Aaron Beard wrote, “For some, it’s an unwelcome burden that distracts from lifelong goals. Others figure it’s a responsibility that comes with being an Olympic-caliber athlete.” Wrestler Brad Vering said that he “expects some athletes will feel pressured to speak out.” Vering: “Some athletes will fold like crazy and probably do things on the medal stand” (AP, 4/14).
FREE TO SPEAK: USOC Chief Communications Officer Darryl Seibel said that U.S. athletes are “within their free-speech rights to comment on issues as long as they comply with the laws of the host nation and with Rule 51 of the Olympic charter, which prohibits ‘demonstrations and or political, religious and racial propaganda’ in Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Seibel: “We won’t be introducing guidelines that are any more restrictive than that. We expect our athletes to compete in a manner that makes our country proud.” Dream For Darfur Dir Jill Savitt said that the group “isn’t asking athletes to boycott the opening ceremony to help bring attention to Darfur, ‘only heads of state, because this is a failure of governments.’” Savitt: “The only thing I would really hope for from athletes is that they’re open-minded about this and understand that’s it’s legitimate to utilize the games to promote peace and international cooperation” (L.A. TIMES, 4/15).