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Interview with IOC delegate Kevan Gosper -

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Interview with IOC delegate Kevan Gosper

Broadcast: 04/08/2008

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Kerry O'Brien speaks with the long standing Australian IOC delegate Kevan Gosper about the recent
reports of a censorship agreement between the IOC and China's communist party.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Only last Friday Olympic officials and the Chinese Government had a much
bigger worry on their hands.

In fact the Games appeared to be descending into a public relations debacle, with arriving foreign
media incensed that the Chinese Government was censoring a significant number of internet websites
on political grounds.

Longstanding IOC delegate, Kevan Gosper, who chairs the IOC's press commission, and who's earlier
press freedom for Beijing, was visibly upset with the IOC board after being told by Chinese Olympic
officials that the IOC had made a secret agreement with the Chinese months before that the internet
would be censored.

But by the time IOC president Jacques Rogge arrived in Beijing and met the press at the weekend,
the Chinese had backed down on a number of the internet sites in question, and he denied there had
been any secret deal.

Earlier today I spoke with Kevan Gosper, who was at his Beijing hotel.

Kevan Gosper You told this program back in March all 25,000 journalists and broadcasters would be
as free to operate in Beijing as they were at the Sydney Games in 2000, including Internet access.

Your heart must have been in your mouth on Friday when you saw that promise going up in smoke?

KEVAN GOSPER, CHAIRMAN IOC PRESS COMMISSION: Yes, I must say you're right, Kerry. I was out there
in front saying I'm satisfied we've got clear access to the Internet and that you'll be able to
report as previous Games.

And then suddenly the day after I arrived last week we had BOCOG saying in response to the fact
people were complaining in the main press centre that many web sites were closed on the Internet,
that yes, that's right, this is the agreement we have with the IOC.

Well, AP, Reuters, AFP, EFE, Shin Wa, Kyoto, you name it; they all moved in on me and said well
"Thanks very much for your message".

So I was very, very anxious about this and taken off balance. Now that was a very difficult 48
hours because key people were moving in the air and travelling.

And my main concern was had there been a shift in an understanding on censorship then we should've
known in the press and the media should've been informed.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I was surprised when you said on Friday that the IOC board had better keep me in the
loop but I can't guarantee it.

KEVAN GOSPER: Well, you would've thought.

KERRY O'BRIEN: There wasn't a perfect flow of information between you?

KEVAN GOSPER: Well, I guess I did imply that, because the point that was endeavouring to make if I
didn't make it well, and I'm sure some of my points were blurred because I was trying to get a firm
basis to assure people, One - that there was not an increased censorship agreement.

And two - that we could move to unblocked sites that shouldn't' have been unblocked, was the fact
whilst I'm chairman of the Press Commission and have been for 20 years and I'm deputy chair of the
BOCOG coordination Commission, and that involves me very closely with what's been happening in
Beijing, I'm no longer on the executive board, an I'm no longer party to constant working dialogues
between BOCOG and the IOC on a day by day basis.

So if there was any change I would've been surprised if I hadn't been kept informed. So that was
the problem over the 48 hours.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How hard was it to persuade the Chinese to back down over Internet access?

KEVAN GOSPER: I think that went better than we expected because they realised the consternation
that had occurred, and they realised if this wasn't resolved and these sites were unblocked then
they had a big problem on their hands.

I mean they were as keen as we were to ensure that the conditions for reporting would be as
previous Games. Now, BOCOG, like any organising committee, doesn't have full control over access to
the Internet in any countries.

And in all countries there is a degree of censorship, for example going back to pornography and
subversive sites, so there was obviously a grey area between the Government authorities and BOCOG
that we were able to work very quickly with BOCOG and get them to agree that the sites we were
really concerned with would be unblocked.

And that process started immediately, we could satisfy everybody that no change in the agreement
with BOCOG and ourselves had occurred.

KERRY O'BRIEN: When you said in March that Beijing would be as free for media as Sydney, that's not
strictly true still, is it?

If you look at for instance at the limits on live coverage from Tiananmen Square, they're not even
allowing aerial coverage the start of the marathon at Tiananmen Square. And there are still a
number of Internet sites blocked like that of the Tibetan Government in exile.

KEVAN GOSPER: My view is that from China what we have now is very reasonable in terms of what the
broadcasters and the press need to report on the Games.

Now in so far as Tiananmen's concerned that's always been a difficult negotiation and even now
we're not quite there yet. But there will be variations.

Overall I believe you will find the reporting for an audience of 4.1 or 4.2 billion people will be
absolutely consistently, almost consistent, I've changed my word, but certainly satisfactory to the
viewers as it had been in past Games.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The Chinese President Hu Jintao said at the weekend he didn't want foreign
journalists politicising the Olympics. Do you agree that it's the equivalent of saying no coverage
on Tibet, nothing on the Falun Gong, nothing on human rights issues?

KEVAN GOSPER: Well I think firstly the fact the President of China brought in 30 or 40, I think
about 36 journalists and broadcasters from all over the world was a very important initiative.

That's never been done by head of State prior to a Games before. And I think it was reasonable one
- that he talked with a view to, if you like, calming the atmosphere in the lead-up.

He made the point he hoped the Games would showcase the country and the way of life, and indeed
that's what all countries who host a Games hope to do, as we did in Sydney.

And yes, he did say he hoped that politics didn't, in my words not his, but that we focused on the
Games and sport and not in politics. I'm not surprised he said that.

But as you well know certainly in the lead-up to the Games people will be looking for stories
before the Games start, which do start to overlap political matters, social matters, and economic
matters by way of background.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, has encouraged
athletes to protest human rights violations in Tibet.

Quote "To look at things as they are and not to turn away. Each athlete in their own way can give a
signal, no official", he says, "Should prevent that". What's your response to that?

KEVAN GOSPER: Well I think it's unfair that politicians should encourage athletes or incite them to
make political statements. It's unfair to the athlete. The athletes and teams come here to compete,
uncluttered with other issues other than their competition and their ability to perform.

And I think that's an unreasonable request. There are any number of NGOs, non-government
organisations out there, through to Amnesty International, pro-Tibetan groups; you name it, that's
their role to work with Governments.

On the other hand, we have made it quite clear that as long as there are no demonstrations or any
matters of that nature, of political or cultural, or racial propaganda in the field of play and in
the village where you want to keep it calm; we've got representatives from 205 countries here, and
we want to keep the atmosphere calm.

And that's a consistent view we've always had. That the athletes are free to express their opinions
when they're at a main press centre and so on. That's different from politicians suggesting what
athletes should do and say and behave.

All athletes here are free to express their own views. I come from a democratic country, we both
do. And we always reserve the right of free expression; and the IOC is not standing in the way of

KERRY O'BRIEN: So to be clear if an athlete wants to express a political opinion at a press
conference or on a blog site they can as far as the IOC's concerned, but not at an event or medals
ceremony or in the village?

KEVAN GOSPER: We would seek that all athletes make no effort to demonstrate or use any form of
propaganda particularly on the podium. And certainly in the village, but in terms of being
interviewed later on if they want to make an open and free comment, they're free to express their

But the whole idea of this Kerry is to keep harmony at what is the biggest international meeting of
individuals and teams in fierce competition but in peaceful and fair competition.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevan Gosper thanks for talking with us.

KEVAN GOSPER: Thanks, Kerry.