French athletes ae hoping to be allowed
to wear their badge [AFP]
French athletes propose to wear a badge marked "For a better world'' at the Beijing Olympics, to show support for human rights in the wake of China's crackdown in Tibet.

The athletes plan to lobby the International Olympic Committee for permission to wear the badge, a symbol of their attachment to liberty, fraternity and Olympic principles they said China is not respecting.

About 20 former and current French athletes, some already qualified to compete in Beijing this August, attended the unveiling of the badge on Friday.

It shows the Olympic rings below the words "France'' and "For a better world.''

The badge is the result of several weeks of reflection among athletes in France about how they should respond to the events in Tibet and the broader question of human rights in China.

"The situation in China is certainly intolerable. I can assure you that it is insupportable for us sports people,'' said two-time Olympic canoeing champion Tony Estanguet, in a brief address that was strongly applauded by the other athletes.

Looking for a solution

He said boycotting the games should not be a solution.

One of the driving forces behind the idea was pole vaulter Romain Mesnil, silver medalist at last year's world championships in Osaka, Japan.

Mesnil said China's response to recent unrest in Tibet was a turning point for him.

He had initially suggested that athletes wear a green ribbon or other signs to show support for human rights. That idea evolved into the badge that the athletes unveiled together on Friday.

"The fundamental principles of the Olympic charter are among the most beautiful messages that sport has given to man. This year we will celebrate the Olympic spirit in a country that doesn't respect these fundamental principles, or at least not sufficiently,'' Mesnil said.

With their badge, athletes "are putting the Olympic values back into the heart'' of the Beijing Games, he added.

Two-time French judo gold medalist David Douillet said Henri Serandour, president of the French Olympic Committee, supports their action and would argue for it with IOC chief Jacques Rogge.

Source: Agencies