The German women's hockey team are one of the
favourites for gold in Beijing [GALLO/GETTY]
German athletes competing at the Beijing Olympics will not be under extra restrictions on expressing their opinions beyond what's already in the Olympic Charter.

"Our athletes are mature citizens who are aware of their responsibilities but who can speak their minds," German Olympic Sports Union spokesman Gerd Graus said.

German athletes will be expected to respect the Olympic Charter, he said.

International Olympic Committee rules state "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas."

On Sunday, the British Olympic Association said it would require its athletes to sign a new clause in their contracts barring them from making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Olympics.

Following an outcry, association spokesman Graham Newsom said Monday there had been "no intention of gagging anyone" but acknowledged that its Team Members' Agreement appeared to go beyond the provisions of the Olympic Charter.

Human rights groups have criticized the British plans.

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues.

Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they would be free to voice their opinions.

Source: Agencies