France: No human rights badges at Olympics |

France: No human rights badges at Olympics

Elaine Ganley
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Jacques Brinon/APTwo-time French judo gold medalist David Douillet addresses reporters following his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee palace in Paris, Tuesday.

PARIS ” The head of the French National Olympic Committee ruled out allowing athletes to wear a “For a Better World” badge at the Beijing Games, angering athletes and others who had wanted to express their views on human rights.

French athletes came up with the idea of a badge after China’s crackdown on protests in March in Tibet.

The decision to ban the badge “puts into question the fundamental values of the Olympic spirit,” French pole vaulter Romain Mesnil said Tuesday on Europe-1 radio.

In Frankfurt, Germany, Olympic judo champion Yvonne Boenisch said she plans to boycott the opening ceremony for the Beijing Games and that she will wear a wristband to protest China’s crackdown in Tibet. But Boenisch, who in 2004 became the first German woman to win a judo gold medal, said she plans to participate in the Games themselves.

French Olympic Committee chief Henri Serandour told L’Equipe TV on Monday night that the Olympic Charter must be respected, and blocked the athletes’ plan to wear a small badge bearing the five Olympic rings. The Olympic charter rules out any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at all Olympic sites.

Serandour said that with more than 200 countries at the Games, some of whose athletes have their own causes, “We can’t wear a badge for this cause, a badge for that cause.

“We are going to respect the charter.”

Some French athletes have been critical of the crackdown in Tibet and China’s human rights record. They argued that wearing a “Better World” badge would be their way of showing their attachment to world values they accuse China of not respecting.

“We are perhaps at a pivotal moment,” said Mesnil, the pole vaulter and president of the French athletes’ union. “And if we swing to the side of all marketing, we’ll lose a bit of the fundamentals of the Olympics.”

The head of the media group Reporters Without Borders, which is pushing for a boycott of the opening ceremony, said the decision announced by Serandour represented a slap in the face for athletes.

“What a lack of courage,” Robert Menard said on France-Info radio.

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