President of the Australian Olympic
Committee John Coates [GALLO/GETTY] 
Australian Olympic chief John Coates believes there is a good chance some athletes will launch protests on the medal podium at the Beijing Olympics.

China has been heavily criticised for their human rights record and for their recent crackdown in Tibet and Coates has said that some players may choose to speak up against the regime.

"It is a real possibility,'' Coates said following the Australian Olympic Committee's annual general meeting.

"The IOC doesn't want the competition to be prejudiced in any way by any demonstrations. They may happen and they'll have to be dealt with depending on how serious they are.''

The Olympic torch's journey around the world was marred by protesters ahead of the August 8-24 Games.

Black Power protest

Coates said there could be podium demonstrations in Beijing similar to the black power protest on the medal podium by American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists and bowed their heads during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner.''

Both were expelled from the games.

Coates' comments came as the AOC loosened its protest guidelines for Australian athletes at the Beijing Games, however they still will use the Olympic charter to threaten athletes with expulsion.

The new guidelines, announced at the annual general meeting, expand on protest rules issued during the week by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The AOC says athletes must respect the dignity of the host nation China, their fellow athletes and the Olympic charter.

But it said athletes were free to express their opinions on Tibet, human rights and other such issues in media interviews and online blogs, but cannot place protest signs or propaganda on clothing or equipment.

It said any breach of the Olympic charter would result in disqualification from the Games.

"We don't want banners and T-shirts and things in the village which is meant to be a place where 10,500 athletes get together,'' Coates said.

"You can imagine that if the Iraqi team turned up with T-shirts telling us and Britain and the U.S. to get out of Iraq, there could be some unpleasant things happen in the village. And similarly I think we have to respect the athletes of all countries, including China, in the village.''

Source: Agencies