Sports

PM pleads with Olympians to boycott Moscow Games


The Australian team carry the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony.

The Australian team carry the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony.Credit:Russell McPhedran

The Prime Minister accused the six pro-Games of putting their Moscow interests above Australia’s, and said they still had time to change their mind.

The AOF executive was clearly uneasy about the Games decision, made on Friday, he said.

The announcement by the Federation president, Mr Syd Grange, pointed to a conflict of interest between duty to Australia and duty to the Olympics.

“It is plain that the six who voted for Moscow placed their duty to the Olympics above their duty to Australia,” he said in his weekly electoral broadcast.

“It is a decision in the interests of a small band of Olympic athletes. It is a decision contrary to the interests of hundreds of thousands of young Australian men and women, and of all other Australians, who will not be going to Moscow.”

He said the Olympic committee could have contributed to attempts by the United States and major European countries to avoid mistakes made in the 1930’s.

The PM said medals won in Moscow would be devalued.

A boycott was measured by the strength of athletes who stayed away, not the number of countries or athletes.

“How many lives is a medal worth,” he said. “How many people have to be killed by Soviet armies before we will have total unity in this country on whether or not to compete in Moscow?”

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Mr Fraser said in a television interview: “I cannot give them my blessing to go, but I can say that I hope any athlete who does compete in Moscow makes damn sure that he or she beats everyone else in whatever the event may be.

“Because whatever views Australians might have about whether or not they should be in Moscow now that they are going – it is all the more important that they win and win as well as possible.

“So in that sense, they certainly have my good wishes. In that sense, they’ve my blessing.”

Mr Fraser said he wanted all Australians to get behind those who compete in Moscow.

“I want all Australians to hope that those who do compete in Moscow will win,” he said.

The general manager of the Australian team to Montreal, Mr Jack Howson, has resigned from the Moscow party. He believed the AOF should have followed the Government’s call.

A second member, Mr Eric McRae, described the AOF decision as “terribly unfortunate” and said he would make a statement tomorrow.

Two executive members of the AOF, the president, Mr Syd Grange, and IOC delegate Mr Kevan Gosper, said individual members of the team were free to make an individual decision not to compete.

Mr Gosper said athletes had a right and responsibility to make their own decision. “No sportsman or sportswoman, however dedicated or devoted to his or her private pursuits, is entitled to ignore issues which must eventually have a profound impact on all members of our society,” he said.

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Mr Grange declined to comment on reports that he had also opposed the Games decision, but did stress that athletes could make an individual decision without fear of recrimination.

The Australian women’s hockey team has sacrificed an almost certain Olympic medal by deciding to heed the Government’s call to boycott the Games.

The Equestrian Federation of Australia will tell the AOF today that it is withdrawing from the Olympic team.

Yachting officials are expected to meet this week to consider their position. They had earlier voted in favour of a boycott but are now rethinking the decision following the AOF go-ahead.

The cost of sending the team to Moscow has been estimated at $2.5 million. A team of about 270 athletes and officials was originally planned, but this has not been finalised.

The Anglican Dean of Sydney, the Reverend Lance Shilton said Australia had been disgraced by the decision of the federation executive.

Dean Shilton said he hangs his head in shame at the decision against the strong advice of the Federal Government.

Speaking at the annual service of the Order of the British Empire, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, he said the athletes would be performing for themselves, not their country.

Dean Shilton said they were under personal moral pressure to withdraw if they valued the basic human rights of others.



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