9:33am Tuesday 2nd September 2008
The London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden has drawn widespread condemnation for branding Britain’s Olympic medal winners as “tainted with blood” last week.
Brian Coleman, who is also a Barnet councillor, used a newspaper column to criticise Britain’s athletes for taking part in the Beijing Olympics while the Chinese government stands accused of human rights abuses.
He wrote: “While Britain’s athletes may have won more medals than usual they must remember that they are tainted with the blood of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and Roman Catholic priests who are being tortured and held in labour camps.”
He went on to describe them as “highly paid athletes who leave their consciences at passport control” and suggested that British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were more appropriate heroes.
The remark came in the same week that Britian’s young Olympic team returned home with the nation’s best haul of medals for 100 years.
Labour Assembly member Valerie Shawcross described the rant as an “outrageous direct attack on Britain's athletes” that “totally undermined” the Mayor of London’s support for the Olympics.
Councillor Alison Moore, the leader of the Barnet’s Labour group, called for the Mayor of London to sack Mr Coleman as the Tory whip in the London Assembly.
“Quite frankly Boris Johnson should sack him,” she said. “We just can’t have senior members of the Mayor’s team attacking Olympic heroes in this fashion.”
Mr Coleman also wrote that Mr Johnson had been “forced” to travel to Beijing to collect the Olympic flag to mark the build-up to London hosting the games in 2012, claiming he would have told the International Olympic Committee to post it.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson distanced the Mayor from Mr Coleman’s “offensive” remarks.
He said: “It is preposterous to suggest that Boris Johnson was forced to go to Beijing. He did so with great enthusiam and is extremely grateful to his hosts.
“It is offensive to suggest so when these fine young men and women are not only doing Britain proud but are helping to open China to the world and the world to China.”
However, there was no indication that any action would be taken against Mr Coleman and the spokesman described his views as “a matter of taste and political opinion”.
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