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Andy Wong/AP

Shadow games

Sports | Several competing nations are asking their athletes to remain silent about China's human-rights record during the Olympic Games

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

With Beijing set to host this summer's Olympic Games, several competing nations seem bent on adding an unsavory piece of equipment to their athletes' uniforms-muzzles. The national Olympic committees for Britain, Belgium, and New Zealand are among those mandating that their athletes adhere to a strict policy of silence on China's abysmal human-rights record.

British competitors must sign a document pledging "not to comment on any politically sensitive issues" under threat of expulsion from the team, a rule requiring self-policing of blogs and even personal emails. Athletes from all nations are subject to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee Charter, which "provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Such restrictions all but guarantee that the Chinese government's shameful acts of jailing journalists, harassing Christians, and forcing abortions will receive little international attention during the Games, undermining one of the Olympic committee's justifications for awarding the competition to Beijing. Thomas Bach of Germany, the committee's vice president, had suggested that the controversial decision "may help to liberalize a country."

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Instead, critics of the policy to muzzle athletes fear a repeat of the 1936 Berlin Games when British soccer players delivered a Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler. British human-rights advocate Lord David Alton has condemned his country's kowtowing to China, which he fears "will be viewed as acquiescence."

Nevertheless, British Olympic Association chief executive Simon Clegg has threatened strict enforcement of the gag order with violating athletes being removed from competition and immediately sent home. "I have to act in the interest of the whole British team, not one individual," he said. But that "team-first" approach may leave suffering Chinese individuals without a voice.

Farewell to Favre

After 17 seasons, three MVP awards, 442 touchdown passes, and nearly 62,000 yards through the air, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is tired. The one-time Super Bowl victor who led his team to a surprise NFC Championship appearance this past season cited stress as the primary factor in his decision this month to call it a career.

For all the numbers, most will remember Favre for particular highlights, singular moments of belief-defying grit and athleticism that helped his team win. No matter the stage, no matter the stakes, Favre always appeared as though he were scrambling around the backyard tool shed and pinpointing passes between the sycamore tree and the old fence post. That kind of sandlot improvisation exasperated some coaches but inspired a country of little boys-from ages 7 to 77.

Romans 11

By Mark Bergin

A rising football star for the Los Angeles High Romans, Jamiel Shaw did well in all the right things-church, school, athletics. But the 17-year-old running back could not outrun the senseless violence of his South L.A. neighborhood, which claimed his life this month in what police term a random shooting.

Jamiel Shaw Sr. called the tragedy his "own personal Iraq" even as his wife, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, serves her second tour of duty overseas. A photo of Jamiel published in the Los Angeles Times depicts a well-built young man full of hope, faith, and future, his mascot and jersey number combining in an appropriate Scripture reference to Romans 11: "How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?"

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