Kiwiblog's David Farrar notes that the usually Labour-loving Sunday Star Times must be pretty angry, given today's editorial about the NZ Government's attempts to keep China happy by backing free speech restrictions for the country's athletes.
"The Chinese Olympics are an attempt by an odious political regime to buy global respectability. They are as political as Hitler's Games in 1936...Government sports minister Clayton Cosgrove is backing the decision to ban New Zealand's Olympic athletes from expressing personal views during this year's games in Beijing.
It is not the athletes who are being treated as political pawns. It is lickspittle governments like Cosgrove's.
Everyone knows the Clark government will do almost anything to get its free-trade deal with China."
The NZ Olympic Committee is attempting to back-pedal from claims that it is requiring athletes to "not make statements, demonstrate (whether verbally, or by any act or omission) regarding political, religious or racial matters".
Perhaps not surprisingly given the country's current coalition regime, New Zealand is apparently one of the few western nations trying to "prevent their Olympic athletes from commenting on what they might see, hear or think".
Even Green MP Keith Locke showed a rare streak of common sense this week, noting "Our Olympic officials should not be imitating the Chinese regime by muzzling Kiwi athletes who might be disturbed by some of what they see in China," Locke said.
Swimmer Dean Kent is aiming to qualify for his third Olympics, and believes people should worry about what's going on at home, rather than political issues in Beijing.
But Olympic silver medallist runner Dick Quax says the only interests being protected by the NZOC were those of the Chinese Government. Quax said he was able to freely speak out about the All Blacks tour of South Africa in 1976, along with teammates John Walker and Rod Dixon.
"The idea you can put blanket coverage on an athlete on speaking their mind is a bit naive," said Mr Quax, "and really they should be watering it down a bit."Actress Mia Farrow has publicly labelled the Beijing Olympics "the genocide games", while Hollywood Director Stephen Spielberg announced earlier this week that he was pulling out as "artistic adviser" for the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies.
His decision was a protest at China's support (by way of money and guns) for the Sudanese government, which is accused of human rights abuses in Darfur.
When the International Olympic Committee chose China as host nation seven years ago, officials hoped it would encourage the communist country to promote improvements in human rights... That hasn't happened.
And if China's free speech and human rights histories weren't enough to turn people off the Beijing games, competitors are being advised to "arrive late and leave early to avoid hot, polluted air", and many countries are supplying their athletes with breathing masks.
Some Olympic events could be postponed, and some top international athletes are considering boycotting the Beijing games altogether.
* Sunday Star Times: EDITORIAL: Beijing circus hits town
* Stuff: Richard Boock - NZ wins the gagging gold
* NZ Herald: Olympian: Forget China, focus on NZ
Posted at 10:46 pm