Today I read a very interesting interview with the German vice president of the IOC - I translated it myself and I hope you understand it (I am not a professional translator) - I would like to add that I don't share all views of Thomas Bach.
F.A.Z. - „Jeder kann sich äußern - außerhalb der olympischen Stätten“
26. März 2008
The vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and president of the German Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB) vaunts the freedom of opinion – in the limits of the Olympic Charta. Thomas Bach speaks in an interview with the “Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung” about Sports in the political context and the long silent of his president.
It is said in the Olympic Charta: Every way of demonstration or political, religious or racist propaganda is forbidden in the Olympic sites. What is allowed for the athletes in Beijing – and what is not allowed?
The charta instructs political neutrality, due we don’t want, that dictatorships or teams of autocratic countries do advertising for their leader. Mature athletes are able to express themselves on press conferences of their teams or in discussions in the Olympic village.
If a gold medal winner of Beijing dedicates the medal to the oppressed nation of Tibet in the international press conference – will he/she be disqualified?
The freedom of speech of the athletes is guaranteed. Everybody is able to express himself/herself.. But: the Olympic Sites have to be free of every single political statement.
Is the press conference an Olympic Site?
I do not speculate about hypothetical individual cases.
But it would be interesting to know where the limits of this elastic clause are.
That is not a elastic clause. It is explicit.
If many athletes start in orange in reference to the monks cowls in Tibet – will he/she be disqualified?
Again: I do not speculate about hyp1othetical individual cases.
Who will decide during the Games, if it had been a forbidden political statement?
The executive of the IOC, in which is an athlete deputy, too.
The Chinese organisation committee has nothing to say in this decision?
IOC representatives aren’t to dispose to make a political statement about the conflict in Tibet. Why does the IOC believes, that it has to be apolitically.
Politically neutral. But not apolitical. Of course we act under the political circumstances.
So IOC-President Jacques Rogge didn’t have to keep quite a week, in which the Chinese potentates call sometimes for fight and sometimes they appeal on the Olympic charta?
Take the statements of Jaques Rogge. Or let us take the statements of the German Olympic Sport Federation from may 2007 or from Monday, then you will find clear words about the not satisfying situation of human rights, against all kinds of violence, the call for an immediate abdication of violence and a solution through a dialogue. And you will find a remark of Jacques Rogge about silent diplomacy, which he maintains. There are a lot of statements – perhaps not like one or another wants.
Calling for compliance with the Olympic rules – that is very general. A demand of adherence the basics of the Olympic charta – for example discrimination – would be wishful.
The calls are very clear. We understand under compliance with the Olympic rules the compliance of the covenants by China, too. For example the possibility for 25,000 journalists to enter China to report about the Games – not handpicked by the Chinese authorities but by accreditation of the IOC.
But at the moment there is no freedom of the press. All foreign journalists had to leave Tibet. Therewith the covenants had been broken.
The covenants are restricted on the time of the Olympic Games and for accredited journalists.
Wasn’t the IOC very proud on the loosening of the rules for foreign journalists in China prior the Olympic Games?
Yes. These loosening is very welcome, like it is very unfortunate, that China thought, that it has to cut down the coverage about Tibet, now.
If you look at it, how the Chinese potentates speak about harmony among nations in connection with the Games in these days – don’t you get the fear of to be abused?
Freedom of opinion is valid for everybody. And everybody is able to draw conclusion, what it is said in speeches. It can’t be a job for the IOC to set rules in this matter. By the way I ask to think about the final question and not to stick to symbolic deeds in the whole discussion. The final question is: How is it able that sport can make a contribution for an improvement of the situation?
But not with keeping out of…
But not with a boycott for sure. There are other ways how sport can contribute. About what are we talking right now? About Tibet. Why? Why identifies the whole world with this problem. Due the Olympic Games will take place in Beijing.
But this can’t be the sense of Olympic Games.
Sense of Olympic Games, that is a good catchword. If you want to give the Olympic Games the sense to solve all problems of the world that is wrong. That is not their business and not their claim. It is the creation of dialogue. And the opportunity that the problems are introduced to a broad public.
Good. Isn’t that a political motive for the awarding of Olympic Games.
Of course. Like I have already said, political neutrality, but not apolitical.
But the awarding of the Olympic Games to Beijing wasn’t political neutral.
You can’t demand from the IOC members, that they make decisions without any consideration of the outside world. Every intelligent person has to know, that the awarding of a event with the dimension of Olympic Games will have a political impact. You can’t turn a blind eye on that.
But that did the IOC-president Rogge for a week in the light of the newest incidents. He stayed silent until Easter. Isn’t that a weak performance?
He has expressed himself. But he had been out of the office. He had been on a business trip and was asked about the situation during the press conferences in the different countries, but these answers had arrived fragmentary, since the world press wasn’t there.
But isn’t there a public relation/press department in Lausanne?
. . .
We understand your silent as you won’t want to criticise your president.
Exactly. Since there is no reason for that.
What are you saying to critics, who claim, that the IOC can’t withdraw Beijing the Games since financial reasons?
I resist this. The IOC could cope with a cancellation of the Olympic Games. To build up reserves was one of our mayor tasks in the last years.
Wouldn’t it be right in sense of responsibility for the athletes not to award Olympic Games to dictatorships?
First of all: the IOC is not a world government, which differs the countries in good and bad. And if you say: that human rights has to be considered of a country, before it can host Olympic Games. How would you deal then with a country, which is on war on a foreign continent without legitimation by the United Nations, that imposes the death penalty and where the secret service is allowed to torture by an explicit intervention of the president?