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Athletes slam IOC's 'no grief symbols' diktat

Sochi: The International Olympic Committee yesterday warned against wearing black armbands and other symbols of mourning during competitions at the Sochi 2014 Games, in a controversy that has raised strong emotions among athletes.

The question of whether the IOC's charter allows athletes to make public displays of grief has turned into a major issue in Sochi after Norwegian ski stars wore black bands to remember the late brother of a teammate.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams said the IOC understood the motivations behind the athletes' gestures and was prepared to help organise any commemorative events.

But he said that the IOC objected to athletes using black armbands or any other symbols that went beyond their standard national kit during races and other competitions.

"It is not about the rule, it is a question of what is appropriate," he told reporters.

Freestyle skiers and snowboarders have reportedly been banned from wearing tributes on their kit to Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who died after a halfpipe training accident in the USA in 2012.

'Games not right place'
"We would say that the competitions themselves are not the right place to do this," Adams said, commenting on the Burke controversy.

Canada's Burke had been seen as a top medal contender for Sochi and her death sent shockwaves through the tightly knit freestyle skiing community.

Torah Bright
Torah Bright 

Australian snowboarder Torah Bright, who wanted to wear stickers commemorating Burke but was told not to do so by the IOC, lashed out at the ban in a statement on her Instagram account.

Political statement?
"I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always. The IOC however, consider Sarah stickers "a political statement" and have banned them. WOW," Bright said.

Norway's female cross-country skiing team, including skiathlon Sochi Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen, wore black armbands in tribute to the brother of teammate Astrid Jacobsen, who died on the eve of the Games.

Norwegian media have said the IOC sent a letter to the Norwegian Olympic Committee reminding it that the cross-country skiers should not have worn black armbands.

Norwegian skiers compete in the cross-country skiathlon sporting black armbands
Norwegian skiers compete in the cross-country skiathlon sporting black armbands  

Gold medal-winning Bjoergen, Norwegian bronze medallist Heidi Weng and their teammates had after the skiathlon on Saturday been shown hugging each other and weeping uncontrollably in a show of emotion.

Nordic superstar Bjoergen was quoted as saying yesterday that she was "sad" that the IOC had complained but the Norwegians had been prepared for this. Jacobsen, whose brother died suddenly on Friday, is still expected to compete in the sprint event today.

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