British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China's appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing.
The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest.
The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes' contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.
It is contained in a 32-page document that will be presented to all those who reach the qualifying standard and are chosen for the team.
From the moment they sign up, the competitors will be effectively gagged from commenting on China's politics, human rights abuses or illegal occupation of Tibet.
Prince Charles has already let it be known that he will not be going to China, even if he is invited by Games organisers. His views on the Communist dictatorship are well known, after this newspaper revealed how he described China's leaders as “appalling
old waxworks” in a journal written after he attended the handover of Hong Kong. The Prince is also a long-time supporter of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader.
Yesterday the British Olympic Association (BOA) confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that any athlete who refuses to sign the agreements will not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China,
they will be put on the next plane home.
The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: [Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues. It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which provides for no kind of
demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas.
The BOA took the decision even though other countries – including the United States, Canada, Finland, and Australia – have pledged that their athletes would be free to speak about any issue concerning China.
To date, only New Zealand and Belgium have banned their athletes from giving political opinions while competing at the Games.