Debate on Changing Olympic Site

A widespread public debate is developing in Australia following calls by leading parliamentarians, human rights activists and Jewish organizations for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Last week, Sen. Alan Missen, a leading Liberal Party spokesman on human rights, called on the Australian government to withdraw from the Olympics as a protest against the trials and convictions of Anatoly Shcharansky, Alexander Ginzburg, Yuri Orlov and others.

Speaking at a solidarity rally attended by nearly 2000 people, Missen received loud applause when he called for the boycott. But the Labor opposition shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sen. Ken Wriedt, said he would not favor such a move although he joined the rally to protest against the Moscow trials.

In a country which is widely regarded as “sports mad, “Missen’s call received widespread coverage in the media. A number of leading Liberal Party federal and state parliamentarians have supported the call but Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was non-committal when asked for his views by reporters. Spokesmen for the Australian Olympic Federation and other sports organisations have opposed the idea of either a boycott of the games or an attempt to move the venue from Moscow.

A delegation of rabbis which last week called on Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrew Peacock asked for a boycott of the games as one of several measures it urged the Australian government to take against the Soviet Union. The delegation also called on Peacock to review Australia’s cultural and scientific relations with the Soviet Union and to suspend representative delegations planning to attend conferences in the Soviet Union.

Al though both the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister have issued protest statements about the dissidents’ trials, it is thought unlikely that the government will take any significant action in its bi-lateral relations with the Soviet Union. Australia has supported boycotts of South Africa’s athletic teams in recent years but public opinion polls suggest that the majority of Australians are against such bans and believe that “sports and politics should not mix.”

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