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|August 24, 2000||
For flag, country and cause
Australia's gold medal hope Cathy Freeman will not be disciplined if she takes an "impulsive decision" to drape herself in the Aboriginal flag at next month's Olympics, a Sydney newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Spectators won the right earlier this week to take the Aboriginal flag into stadiums and the Telegraph said Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) officials have now decided to turn a blind eye to flag-waving by Aboriginal competitors.
It said officials, including AOC President John Coates, were in favour of the athletes expressing their aboriginality despite International Olympic Committee rules banning the promotion of political or religious messages by athletes.
"Mr Coates is a firm believer in the IOC charter but does not think Freeman would be penalised for an impulsive decision to accept a (aboriginal) flag," the newspaper said.
Freeman, Australia's top athlete and their best chance of a track gold medal in the 400 metres, draped herself in the Aboriginal and Australian flags during her victory lap at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
Aboriginal leaders had said they were concerned athletes might have medals taken from them if they wore the red, yellow and black flag representing the earth, sun, and Aboriginal people. They were delighted by Wednesday's report.
"This is a victory for commonsense and a boost for reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia in the lead-up to one of the most significant and positive events in our shared history," said Geoff Clark, chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee.
The Aboriginal community, which accounts for 2.1 percent of Australia's 20 million population, remains the country's most disadvantaged group in terms of health, education and income.
Mail Sports Editor
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