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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Athletes urged to show hands for Tibet at Olympics

July 12, 2008

Ashling O'Connor, Olympics Correspondent
The Times (UK)
July 11, 2008

If a coach or athlete makes a "T" sign with their hands at the
Olympic Games in Bejing next month, it will probably indicate their
support for Tibet rather than a request for a refreshing cuppa at the
finish line. With four weeks to go until the start of the first
Olympics to be held in China, human rights activists are calling on
competitors and spectators to show their concern for the situation in
the Himalayan region by forming a "T for Tibet" with both hands.

Joanna Lumley and Jeremy Irons, the actors, are spearheading the
campaign, which is launched today to refocus attention on Tibet after
the issue consumed the Olympic torch relay in April, prompting a wave
of violent protests along the international route.

Athletes will be encouraged to make the sign as a way of
circumventing strict rules that prohibit political banners and flags
inside the stadium and other Olympic venues. Anne Holmes, the acting
director of the Free Tibet Campaign, said: "British and all other
athletes must act as their consciences dictate. We would love to see
an athlete dedicate a medal to Tibet, but we are making no demands."

Athletes will also be guided on ways they can speak out in Beijing on
Tibet without jeopardising their place at the Games. This includes
voicing their concerns during press interviews after their events or
wearing Free Tibet T-shirts around Tiananmen Square.

The IOC has said that athletes will be free to express their views
during the Games but must not engage in any kind of "demonstration or
political, religious or racial propaganda" inside accredited areas.
However, there is much uncertainty surrounding the definition of propaganda.

Making the "T" sign on the podium would probably be interpreted as a
political statement and could result in tough sanctions. Tommie Smith
and John Carlos, the United States sprinters who won gold and bronze
medals respectively, were suspended from the American team and banned
from the Olympic Village for their Black Power salute on the podium
at the 1968 Games in Mexico City in protest at racial oppression.

The IOC said that the focus of athletes should rest on sport, not
politics. "We are aware that organisations are urging athletes to
take stands on various issues," Giselle Davies, the IOC's
communications director, said. "How any result, if any, would be
interpreted will come down to a commonsense approach, which the IOC will take."
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