Athletes should consider Beijing boycott: Stojko
Published Saturday, May 17, 2008 8:12PM EDT
TORONTO - Two-time Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko says Canadian athletes should "make a stand" for human rights and think twice about heading to the Beijing Summer Games.
Stojko, who captured the silver in men's figure-skating at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics, says he would consider boycotting the Games if he was still competing.
Stojko made the comments during a Saturday afternoon rally outside the Ontario legislature, protesting China's human rights record.
About 200 people showed up for the rally, which included lighting a mock Olympic torch.
The three-time world champion also says it's unacceptable for countries to muzzle athletes' opinions, since the athletes are the ones representing their countries.
China's government has faced mounting criticism over its human rights record, and drew fire for a recent crackdown against anti-government protests in Tibet.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed he will not attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games, but Canada has rejected the idea of boycotting the Olympics.
"I know for me, it would be extremely difficult to be able to go compete in a country that was hosting the Games, but don't exemplify what the Games are being held for,'' Stojko told The Canadian Press.
He added that athletes have an ability to raise awareness about important issues.
"People should know what's going on and athletes have a chance to be able to do that if they wish,'' Stojko said, adding that China's treatment of its people is dragging "negative energy'' into the world tournament.
But Steve Keogh, communications manager from the Canadian Olympic Committee, said athletes are free to say what they want,'' he said in an interview. "There's been no instruction to our athletes not to say anything.
"They can say anything they wish.''
Keogh did say Canada is a signatory of the Olympic charter, which prohibits athletes from making any "proactive demonstration while in an Olympic venue.''