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ITALY - BEIJING 2008

Italian athletes ignore calls to boycott opening

2 min

Despite calls from Italy's youth minister and some members of Silvio Berlusconi's ruling party, Italian athletes say they'll attend Friday's opening ceremony in Beijing.

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The chairman of the Italian Olympic Comittee (CONI) Gianni Petrucci has condemned statements from several government officials calling Italian athletes in Beijing to boycott the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

"Why ask sports to substitute politics ?", questioned Petrucci on Wednesday, at a ceremony of raising of the Italian flag in the Olympic village, according to reports in the Italian media. "Why not ask industrials not to invest in China ? Coni has been the first to declare its opposition to a boycott and to ask its athletes not to boycott."

On Tuesday, Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni called the Italian athletes in Beijing to make "a strong gesture, including the boycott of the opening ceremony" in order to recall the issue of human rights violations in China “that have now been forgotten."

Her statement came after a similar call from Maurizio Gasparri, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party chief at the Senate, "to support the people whose freedom is being suffocated."

 

The controversy within the conservative government was put to an end on Tuesday evening by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. “I respect all opinions, but the athletes ought to parade (…) to avoid any disqualification.

Public reactions from the Italian athletes in Beijing were unanimously against a boycott. "Even if they can be close to my ideas, some politicians are incompetent : they understand nothing that is not from their own world ", said heavyweight boxer Clemente Russo. While volley ball international player Valerio Vermiglio said that "the opening ceremony is the most beautiful thing, a dream becoming true".

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