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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Reuters > Report

IOC's Gosper says matches should go ahead in Zimbabwe

January 09, 2003 16:42 IST

International Olympic Committee vice-president Kevan Gosper says a boycott of World Cup matches in Zimbabwe next month will hurt ordinary citizens and not mean Australia condoned President Robert Mugabe's excesses.

Gosper said as an Australia Olympic official in 1980 he had supported a national boycott of the Moscow Olympics but was out-voted and is now against sporting boycotts.

"In suggesting he would like to see an agreement between all the countries that we not play World Cup cricket in Zimbabwe, (Australia) Prime Minister John Howard is giving new life to the dreaded sporting boycott," Gosper wrote in a column in the Herald Sun  newspaper on Thursday.

"To do this on the basis that the issue is one of principle is misguided. It can only damage our sporting reputation."

Gosper said he had appreciated over the past two decades how the sporting community could rise above international politics.

"Sport is all about providing opportunities for all, particularly for the younger generations. Boycotts have no part in this generation building," Gosper said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair heaped pressure on cricket authorities last week to stop the England team playing in Zimbabwe but insisted he had no power to prevent them going.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has been put under increasing pressure to boycott the match England are due to play in Harare on February 13 following President Mugabe's land reform programme.

The controversial measure is blamed by opponents as the main reason for the country's deepening economic crisis and food shortages.

AUSTRALIAN CONCERNS

Zimbabwe is scheduled to host six of the 54 matches in the World Cup tournament being staged mainly in South Africa from February 9 to March 23.

The Australian government has also raised concerns about playing there.

Australia are due to play Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on February 24.

"Mr Howard says he would not pressure the Australian Cricket Board to act unilaterally, but he is campaigning for the other countries drawn to play in Zimbabwe to form an alliance -- to resurrect a boycott," Gosper wrote.

"The Zimbabweans are right when they say a boycott will hurt ordinary citizens, the people the world at large seeks to guide out of their troubles.

"Playing cricket in Zimbabwe does not mean that we as a nation condone the excesses of Mugabe.

"More often than not, the staging of an international event actually bares an unjust regime against a sporting backdrop of freedom, openness and fair play.

"In the absence of any change in the security situation, the Zimbabwe decision is one for sport, and sport alone."

© Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


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