Currie must stop discouraging free speech for athletes

Green Party MP Keith Locke has criticised the chef de mission of New Zealand’s Olympic team Dave Currie for discouraging our athletes from speaking out on human rights issues while in Beijing.

On TVNZ’s Sunday programme last night, Mr Currie said that an athlete’s statement would ‘call a lot of attention onto themselves, onto the team, and then to the wider New Zealand team’ and could affect both their own performance and ‘the larger New Zealand team performance’.

“Our athletes have an untrammeled right to say what they like about Tibet or human rights or the abysmal state of the environment in Beijing,” Sports Spokesperson Mr Locke says.

“Mr Currie should be upholding that right, not discouraging our athletes by implying it could negatively affect the rest of the Kiwi team.

“Some athletes could even be inspired by acting according to their consciences. There is no indication that All Black Josh Kronfeld played with any less intensity against the French in 1995, after he painted an anti-nuclear symbol on his headgear.

“It will be readily understood that any athletes who speak out, from whatever country, will be doing so in an individual capacity.

“That said, I’m sure many Kiwis would be proud if one of our athletes had the courage to speak out for human rights in China and Tibet.

“On last night’s programme, Mr Currie also expressed a misguided view that holding the Olympics in Beijing would, by itself, advance human rights.

“The Chinese Government has a different idea, clearly seeing an opportunity for a PR triumph to entrench its rule.

“Instead, the build up to the Olympics has seen a worsening of human rights in some areas, most noticeably in Tibet.

“The Olympic Charter promotes sport ‘with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity’. Mr Currie should not discourage our athletes from acting in that spirit. It is their choice.”