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Little Trouble in Big China

The theme from Chariots of Fire ringing in your ears? Pining for the melodic fuzz of Daley Thompson's Decathlon. Ah yes, the Olympics are just around the corner. But they're never without their controversy.

There have been calls for athletes to boycott the games ever since China was awarded the Olympics in 2001. Only the other day the artistic director of the games, Steven 'Phone Home and the Temple of Jaws' Spielberg, stepped down. He blamed China's continued involvement in Sudan for his decision to drop the project like a hot snot.

While no British athletes will boycott the games, some have joined Team Darfur which is calling for immediate action to be taken in the troubled region. But 72% of Britons believe that the Great Britain team shouldn't shun the big day out super games in Beijing.

Phew! Because the champions of free speech over at the British Olympic Association want to force their athletes to sign a written agreement not to discuss Chinese politics. Instead they will only be allowed to talk about how cool and the gang the new Indiana Jones and the Temple of Allie McBeal film is.

It's nothing new. Olympic events and political controversy are happy bedfellows. The 1938 games saw one Adolf Hitler turn the apolitical sporting event into a festival of tolerance, peace and understanding. Well not really...

But the most famous political incident happened at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Two African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, performed their Power to the People salute on the podium to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner.

Protesting for black civil rights, the photo of their bowed heads and raised fists has become one of the iconic images of the late 60s. Not that it went down well with the Olympic committee. Smith and Carlos were thrown out of the games and ostracized by the U.S. athletic establishment.

It remains to be seen if any modern athletes will be willing to put their careers on the line for their political beliefs.

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