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It took only one day for a blitzkrieg of public outrage to send British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg scurrying back to his bunker, where he retracted the gag order he'd tried to place on British Olympic athletes attending this summer's Beijing Games (see the February 11 Indie Sport post, entitled "Appeasement"). The barrage of criticism leveled against Clegg and the BOA included a demand from Conservative sports spokesman Jeremy Hunt that the organization withdraw its "ridiculous requirement" and commentary in the London Mail likening the BOA's attempt to stifle free speech to orders given to the British soccer team in the 1930's to give Adolph **** the **** salute at an international match in Berlin. Backpedaling from his previous stance, Clegg issued a statement denying there had ever been an attempt to issue a gag order. "This is not our intention, nor is it our desire to stifle athletes' freedom of speech and the final agreement will reflect this," read the statement. The announcement of a "final agreement" came as a surprise, given Clegg's previous position that the contract he was going to require all British Olympic athletes to sign was to be the last word forbidding them from speaking about "politically sensitive" issues during the Beijing Games. Nevertheless, his retraction is being commended throughout Britain. In a related development, the Belgian Olympic authorities, who had issued a gag order on their athletes similar to the original British restrictions clarified their position, stating that their athletes would be prohibited from speaking out only from the Olympic village or Olympic venues, but would be free to speak their minds anywhere else while in China. Germany's Olympic authorities also confirmed that their athletes will be free to speak as long as they conform to the restrictions contained in the Olympic Charter governing propaganda and political demonstrations. The political flames fanning the 2008 Olympics appear to be just heating up. Yesterday, famed Hollywood film maker Steven Spielberg severed his involvement as an artistic advisor to the Games, responding to pressure from several humanitarian groups who criticized his relationship with the Chinese organizers. At issue was China's oil-for-weapons economic ties with Sudan (where genocide and mass displacement have occurred in the Darfur region) and China's defense of the Sudanese government before the U.N. Security Council. Let the games begin.

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