§ 7.35 p.m.
§ The EARL of KIMBERLEY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether 1208 they will make a further Statement on their policy towards the Moscow Olympic Games. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. First, I must re-emphasise that I was against the Olympics in Moscow long before the rape of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is just another chapter in the unhappy and bloody saga of Soviet aggression, following on from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the complete denial of human rights in Russia's quest for world domination.
§ At present there are 2 million political prisoners in 96 Soviet labour camps. From 1971 until the end of 1978 just over 79 million people have been murdered in the name of Russian communism¤that is more than the population of the United Kingdom¤and the figure does not include Afghanistan, Angola, Eritrea, Somalia, and so on. Perhaps Sir Denis Follows and Lord Killanin and the athletes, not just British but throughout the world, should stop and think again¤if Sir Denis Follows is capable of thinking at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, asked the other day.
§ Is the gratification of an athlete's four years of training more important than the inhuman and barbaric treatment of Russian dissidents and of the citizens of Afghanistan, some of whose very children are today being taken to Russia by the KGB for Soviet education and indoctrination to learn the Soviet way of life? There are, however, some of our athletes who have seen the light¤such as Chris Stewart and Mr. Weir, as well as the equestrians and the hockey players. They have realised where their moral obligation and duty lie.
§ Is it really more worthy to carry out the whole Olympic charade than to show the Russians that this time they have gone too far? All the talk by the International Olympic Committee and the British Olympic Associaton about keeping politics out of sport is a complete fabrication and smokescreen. Do these two bodies really believe that if Dr. Sakharov had the necessary athletic qualification to win a gold medal for Russia, he would be allowed to participate? I do not want to give the impression that I have no sympathy for the athletes, because I do have sympathy, but I think that all of us should certainly have more sympathy and more 1209 compassion for the 15 million Afghans and their shattered lives. Do Olympic committees and young athletes know that the Soviet Government ordered their troops to shoot down women and children; that 300 women recently were slaughtered in the main square of Kabul because they came out in protest against the murder of one of their own colleagues? Do they realise that apparently there is no British journalist or correspondent covering the region?
§ The former Minister for Sport, the right honourable Denis Howell, stated on 19th February that sport had suddenly had its political importance realised. Either his memory is very short or his knowledge is very lacking. Forty-four years ago Hitler realised that in 1936, and the parallel is very similar. Then, many individual appeals were made to the British Olympic Association to withdraw the British team, but they all went unheeded. Even the then President of the International Olympic Committee, Count Baillet-Latour, issued a statement the fatuity of which pre-echoed with uncanny precision that of his latter day successor, Lord Killanin, that there was no ground for any opposition to the holding of the Olympics in Germany.
§ Perhaps we should inform the present generation of athletes, who were fortunate enough to be born after the last war, that the Olympics of 1940 were Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. Thousands of those athletes died or were horribly mutilated. I am not asking the athletes of today to make the supreme sacrifice, but just, by their refusal to participate, to show that they are not the utterly selfish individuals which their attitude implies; and simultaneously to show that they are not exempt from the moral obligations that govern the rest of us mortals. Already these Games have become third-rate: let us make certain that they become a complete fiasco. I should like to point out to any athlete who may win a tarnished, third-rate gold medal, which in 30 years' time is sitting on his mantelpiece, that when one of his grandchildren goes up to him and says, "Grandfather, what is that?", he would have to say, "I won it at the Moscow Olympics in 1980". But I wonder whether he would be truthful and say, "But, of course, many of the 1210 world's best athletes were not present, so it really is not a gold".
There are some true gold medals going around, and these were presented yesterday by the "No to Moscow Olympics" movement, through its chairman, the honourable Member for Torbay, Sir Frederic Bennett, to those athletes who have acknowledged their moral obligations. I should like to ask the other athletes whether they know that the KGB is apprehensive about the influx of visitors to Moscow for security reasons. Do they realise that, contrary to the general belief, a "quota" of visitors has been agreed between the Soviet authorities and the Moscow Olympic Committee, rather than that anyone should be allowed in; that those who do go will be confined to certain prearranged routes, and that those who want to stray to right or left will not get far? Do they realise that specially-formed vigilante squads, the Druzhiniki, will help the KGB to keep contact between ordinary Russians and foreign tourists to a minimum? I want to repeat a quotation from the latest Soviet communist handbook, as it cannot be over-emphasised:
The decision to give the honour of holding the Olympic Games in the capital of the world's first Socialist State was convincing testimony to the general recognition of the historic importance and greatness of our country's foreign policy, and the enormous service of the Soviet Union in the struggle for peace ".
That statement is pure fact, publicly written and stated by the Kremlin.
Now, my Lords, I want to mention Rule 24C in Sir Denis Follows' bible:
National Olympic Committees must be autonomous and must resist all pressure of whatever kind whatsoever, whether of a political, religious or economic nature. In pursuing their objectives, National Olympic Committees may co-operate with private or government organisations. However they must never associate themselves with any undertaking which would be in conflict with the principles of the Olympic movement and with the rules of the International Olympic Committee ".
§ My Lords, either I am daft or, if I am not, Rule 24C has been completely and utterly disregarded by the Russian statement I have just quoted. Sir Denis Follows also claims to be horrified by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. If so, why does he not resign from the British Olympic Association if his sentiments and feelings are that strong?1211
§ So what are we left with? First, the Soviet Union has completely dishonoured and disregarded the Olympic Charter. Secondly, any Olympic Association and/or athlete who goes to Moscow openly condones the aggression and brutality of the Soviet Union. Third, the upholding of the so-called Olympic spirit will be discredited, perhaps for ever. The fact that the Games will take place at all will only serve to justify Russian militarism and aggression. The athletes will have proclaimed that they care nothing for the dead in Afghanistan or for the oppressed millions inside the Soviet Union. British so-called sportsmen who go to Moscow are not above but below politics, and beneath contempt. Led by Sir Denis Follows, they will have chosen not freedom, but infamy. Fourth, we can only hope that the BBC and the IBA will have the good taste to give this charade the minimum coverage, particularly as at the opening ceremony 6, 000 Russian students with 6, 000 Red Flags will convey the picture of a red carpet. But perhaps this is applicable as it is the same colour as blood!
Fifth, let it be made clear to all who go to Moscow that they will have failed to understand a simple moral obligation that by so doing they will encourage further Russian aggression in the future. Sixth and lastly, may I ask a direct question of the British Olympic Association through my noble friend? What does it profit a man or woman if he or she wins a medal by the strength of their bodies, but by doing so loses his or her soul, and that medal will be a badge of shame to keep for the rest of their lives? My Godfather, the late Sir Winston Churchill, said nigh on 37 years ago:
It is not given to the cleverest and most calculating of mortals to know with certainty what is their interest, yet it is given to quite a lot of simple folk to know every day what is their duty ".
§ Let all of us realise what is our duty by backing up the Prime Minister, and the decision of our own Parliament, to boycott the Moscow Olympics voluntarily¤which we as a democratic and free nation cannot be ordered or compelled to do.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, 1212 is, I think, to be thanked for raising this matter this evening; and he has put his case in robust manner and in vigorous language. After listening to this long catalogue of crime of Soviet imperialism, one wonders whether the Olympics should ever have been going to Moscow at all. In my view they never should. Moscow is not the sort of place to demonstrate the Olympic ideal. There is much more to the Olympic Games in Moscow than the more recent aggression and invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, it is on that matter that we are called upon to express an opinion, and the noble Earl's Question asks the Government whether they have any further statement to make. It may be that the Government can only reiterate the statements they have already made. I think probably what is needed now is for public opinion to express itself more positively as the days go by, because there is still time for those who wish to reconsider their position to decide not to go.
My own intervention in this debate, quite briefly, rests upon a letter which appeared in The Times newspaper on 29th May from one whose words are more eloquent than mine and which carry a great deal more weight. It was from the Reverend Nicolas Stacey, an Anglican clergyman with notable service in the social and religious fields of public life. He deplored the decision of the British Olympic Association not to heed the Government's request that they should decide as a committee not to go, but he still pleaded with those who have the right of individual decision to decide, individually, not to go. Perhaps I may quote some of his words, because I think they are so relevant and pertinent to the present position. He said:If the mere handful of British men and women who have some chance of winning a medal were to accept that to compete in Moscow is to sip a poisoned chalice, what little interest the British public still have in the Games would soon evaporate ".He speaks as a one-time Olympic Games competitor and as one who fought in the last war. He goes on to say:It is difficult for today's leading sportsmen, born after the war ended, to understand the horror that Russia has inflicted on Afghanistan ".Secondly, it is only in recent years that a mystique has developed round international sport and sportsmen and it isolates it and them from the real world. Athletes talk as though they sincerely believe that world statesmen and politicians struggling to maintain the peace of the world 1213 and to save the human race from destruction should not interfere with the true gospel of sport in which they participate as young gods exempt from the rules and obligations that govern the rest of us mortals ".That is the message at the present time; and it should be expressed as frequently as we get the opportunity of doing so. After all, what will these competitors bring back (if they do bring back anything) that they wish to cherish in years to come? Surely, nothing that can be given honour in this country! As for having something to show to their grand-children, their grandchildren will be luck to be alive to be shown anything, the way in which the world is going at the present time with the mounting power of the Soviet bloc and Soviet Russia in particular.
Finally, there is an additional reason, apart from the morals of the matter as we see them, for supporting the Government call for a boycott; and that is to lend support to the call of the United States. In the USA, there is considerable disappointment with Britain at the present time. It may be that the disappointment is mutual. That makes it worse, because any of us who are realistic will understand that the perilous position of Europe would cause us all grave anxiety if the United States were no longer to be concerned with our future integrity and existence. That is one of the facts of life in the world today that we must not ignore. We cannot afford to have a breach in the alliance which alone in my judgment stands against the possibility of Russian aggression in a manner which would threaten our very existence. Again, that I think is a factor which we should take into account. It is that which I believe should be the message that we give on moral grounds, on international grounds and on what we believe is right at the present time, to urge those who otherwise would go to Moscow to stay at home and earn the gratitude and admiration of those who believe that that is the right thing to do.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Lord GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, having spoken at considerable length on this and kindred subjects in the earlier big debate that we had in your Lordships' House on this question, I do not need to do all that again. None the less, there 1214 are one or two things, partly said already by noble Lords, which seem to need constantly repeating. I should like to start, perhaps surprisingly, with a word of praise. I should like to give unstinted praise and encouragement to those noble Lords and to those athletes everywhere who have decided not to go. I put it like this because I believe that it has meant a degree of courage to say, "No, I will not go, for reasons of conscience". It has also shown that noble Lords and members of the public who have taken this line have taken the trouble to read deeply into this very tragic and difficult question. After all, it is perfectly easy to present the situation as something where the athletes or the special interests, or whatever it may be, are fooling around again; whereas, as noble Lords (and particularly the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley) have made clear, in terms of the future of the world, this is of the greatest possible importance. This is not just an athletic matter or a sporting matter or anything of that kind. As has already been said, it is an effort to make it practical for the second largest country in the world, or, in some respects, the most powerful, to dictate to the rest of the world how it regards the Olympic Games and, much more important, how it regards the whole running, authority and character of the world. I am not exaggerating in the least about that. I am not saying that there is a great Soviet plan worked out in every detail; it is rather a very conscious effort to establish a basis of national power which is invincible.
Everyone who takes a decision about what to do must try, even if he or she finds it difficult, to realise that this is not exaggeration; it is truth. There are many points of detail around this country in which there is still a failure to realise this. When a newspaper or radio broadcaster talks about the "Soviet attitude" or the "Soviet proceedings in respect of", it would be so much easier, braver and truer to say: "This is a war starting. It is a Soviet war on Afghanistan." It is not a Soviet attitude or something of that sort. It is the real thing that has actually happened and is proposed by one authoritarian Government and by nobody else.
Apart from that, there is the question of what athletes should do. Here I do not wish to berate them, as it is tempting to do, for wishing to goodness that they could go to Moscow. I see that entirely and 1215 in my previous speech on this matter I expressed this sympathy at some length¤and especially for those people whose last chance it would otherwise be of going to the Olympic Games. I hope that they all realise that we feel this very sincerely, but, as I have said before, this is not just a sporting decision; it is something which affects the safety, the happiness and the democracy of the whole world. There is no getting away from that fact. We just have to think of the thing in those terms all the time. Indeed, noble Lords have alluded to the fact that one has memories. Does one really want to end one's life on earth with the consciousness that (no doubt without intending to do so) one has done something very dangerous in the way of abolishing the practice of democracy in the world at large?
It is really as dangerous as that. I apply this particularly to our friends the athletes because we know that it is a great sacrifice for them if they do refuse to go. We do not mistake that at all. But because the survival of democratic institutions and procedures and the observation of the rule of the United Nations are about the most important things we have to deal with in the world, there can be no satisfactory alternative to saying, "We simply cannot take part". It would be very difficult to live with if any number of our friends in the athletic world were to go to Moscow¤and to go for quite the wrong reasons.
There are one or two things on which one must express a little hope. I hope that at least in talking around noble Lords may feel that some thought should be given even now¤not in any detail¤on the point that if these Olympics are lost because of these policies by the Soviet Union, then let us begin at least to think, if not to plan, something that can come in succession to the aborted Olympics. That would be a new and real Olympic Games in which everybody will be able to partake without the fear of doing something that could be really damaging to their own country and to the democractic world. Our athletes deserve some preliminary thought in that direction. This might take a little of the edge off the great disappointment we know about that they will experience if they feel conscientiously, as I feel they should, that they should not go to this (shall we call it?) "specimen".
1216 Finally, may I also suggest very gently that Her Majesty's Government take serious note of the sacrifices in the givingup of the Olympic Games. Financial an emotional reactions to this renunciation should be thought about. I am not suggesting necessarily the financial effect. A sympathetic approach should be given to the athletes. There should not be too much thrown at them because their main occupational motive of course is to go to the Olympics and take part. We should regard that with great sympathy and if things can be done in any way to soften this very great disappointment, then I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will wish to make it quite clear that all of us, both Government and others, are deeply sympathetic with what is being given up but have consciously, in their expert knowledge of the Soviet Union and the character of these people and their institutions, realised that this is something into which we cannot get ourselves and we would not wish them to involve themselves in such a tragedy of undemocratic government and procedure. I hope, therefore, that our friends the athletes will understand this and follow the line that has been so properly suggested today.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I intervene now, rather than at the point that I would normally speak, through the kindness and understanding of my noble friend Lord Tweeddale and, I hope, the indulgence of the House because of the peculiar difficulty that I find myself in. I shall be as brief as possible, and speak quite personally. There can be no disagreement in this House or indeed in the country about the enormity of what the Russians have done in Afghanistan, or the need to make the strongest possible protest against their action. Indeed, there has been a remarkable unanimity up and down the world in the United Nations about this extraordinary behaviour which has imperilled detente, disarmament, the very peace of South East Asia and indeed has thrown the rest of the world into apprehension.
However, unanimous protest on this occasion¤as on similar occasions¤has not been followed by unified action. The result is that countries have been picking and choosing the actions that they will take to make their protest impactive.
1217 The United Kingdom is no exception. I am bound to say that, until there is international practice to match international protest, we are bound to have his kind of selective performance. The danger is of course that action may be so selective as to be uneven and even counter-productive. This is what has happened in this case.
The facts are that the Soviet Union are assured of the participation at the Games of about two-thirds¤perhaps three-quarters¤of the countries of the world. That is more than enough to enable them to hold the Games and to present them at least to their own people and to the peoples of the countries which do participate as a great triumph. They have the totalitarian means of making quite sure that this is presented as a tremendous triumph for them and against the West. Moreover, even among some of the countries whose Government's have decided against participation that is official, like the United Kingdom, individuals and teams have decided to participate regardless. There is no uniformity or unanimity even within those countries who officially are against participating in the Games.
Our own Government¤and I do not necessarily blame them for this; it is a very difficult question¤have adopted a policy of official disapproval without prohibition. We may therefore see in Moscow participation by perhaps a majority of British sportsmen despite the strongest disapproval of their own Government. It is not difficult to see what capital the Soviet Union will make of this. Just as the Free World is seen to be in disarray about its attitude, so internally the United Kingdom, like other countries, will be seen to be in disunity within itself about the Games. One could say that the Government should not have got themselves and the country into this position. It would be very easy to say that. I certaintly will say this: their original policy was sound. That is, to seek substantial agreement, if universal agreement was not forthcoming, in favour of transferring the Games to another site¤a more appropriate one, a more congenial one, perhaps a more traditionally suitable one.
My criticism of the Government on thisscore¤and I do not make it vehemently— 1218 is that I do not think that a real attempt was made as far back as January, when there was time, to switch these Games from Moscow to a more agreeable and more appropriate site. The Geneva Conference was clearly ill-prepared and abandoned after what seemed to many of us very little effort. Instead, there was a switch to the policy of persuading¤even to pressurising¤British athletes not to participate. Of course, as we have heard they have been singularly unreceptive to persuasion and even to pressure¤and for understandable reasons. I was much taken by the speech of my noble friend Lord Gore-Booth who in making it absolutely clear that he was for a boycott¤with which most of us would sympathise¤nevertheless pleaded for an understanding of the motivation of those who decided to go to Mosocw.
They have understandable reasons. One is that athletes, having invested years of training and self-denial in preparation¤perhaps in preparation for the last possible chance¤feel a profound reluctance not to put their metal to the test, especially when around them in their own country and in other countries they see competitors who do not take that view and who are coming forward to compete. Another reason why one is bound to try to understand is that athletes, like everybody else, especially in this country, are prepared to join in the common cause but not to make sacrifices which are not imposed on others. There is quite a lot of this feeling among athletes, and indeed among the general public.
Your Lordships may have seen or heard a discussion where there was a general audience on this matter. It rather surprised me to find what a large proportion¤a considerable majority¤of those non-athletes who heard the various arguments on whether or not athletes should go to Moscow were in favour of the athletes. There is this feeling among athletes, and indeed among the general public, that they are being asked to do something which others are not being asked to do. We have to try to understand this. For instance, athletes may not go to Moscow but butter may. It is no good saying: "It is not the same thing". It is the same thing to a great many people. They simply do not understand this. Trade can proceed, subject 1219 to a certain mitigation of special credits, which were not taken up anyway. Trade is sacred and may proceed: training is expendable. "Trade is more important than sport"¤tell that to the athletes, just as you can try saying to the trader, "Sport is more important than trade".
We are a country¤the finest democracy in the world¤where, at the risk of some little pain, we try to understand each other's attitudes. We simply must not let the events of this year shake or imperil the unity of the West; that goes without saying. But we must not let them so sour our attitudes to each other in this country that the gain to the totalitarians will be not only the propaganda they can make from the presence of some of these men and women in Moscow, but the fact that they have created a new reason for disunity in the major democracy of the West. So in discussing and debating this matter once more, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said: let us, in putting forward our points of view, clutch to ourselves the understanding of what the motivations of these people are.
In these circumstances it is entirely right that the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and others should continue to endeavour to persuade athletes not to go to Moscow. It is entirely right that the noble Lord, Lord Killanin, should be here¤I do not know whether he is going to speak and put the other view¤but what is entirely wrong is that we should take a "holier than thou" attitude to what people do so long as there is no statutory provision as to what they ought to do¤and there is none in this case. What there is is the very powerful fact of the Government of the country making very clear their disapproval of attendance at these Games, for the reasons we all know. There are a great many people up and down the country¤athletes and non-athletes¤who take the same view, and there are others who do not take that view. There is no statutory provision, and I suggest that we should be rather chary of calling in aid to substitute for a statutory provision a rather specialised moral imperative, because at best that can only be subjective.
What can we do? I think we can all seek to minimise the harm which the situation may create for the Free World | 1220 and which may harm the Free World. We can, for instance, urge that even if the athletes go they will refuse to co-operate in the antics which for so many years have made certain aspects of these Games a nationalistic circus and an opportunity for self-seeking propaganda. There are signs that this is being done and that, although they are going, they are not going to take part in propagandist exercises. I think we might well wish those who finally decide to go good luck and gold medals, and hope that they will give everything they have got to the sport of their choice and nothing at all to making the Moscow Games a propaganda opportunity for totalitarians.
Finally, I think we should now start to work for a better future and a better regiment for international sport. There are many aspects of the Olympic Games¤and those who are closest to them and who have served them honourably for many years are among those who are aware of this¤which are increasingly repugnant to the vast majority of athletes, and, in so far as the general public are aware of those aspects, to them also. I refer to the prostitution of sport by nationalism. Then there is the fact that in many countries the distinction between amateurism and professionalism has been so blurred as to be non-existent. Also there are persistent reports¤founded, I fear, in fact¤that in some countries and within some systems young men and women are dragooned and drugged into an illusory excellence.
These things have been accumulating for some time. One can read quotations from recent writings and speeches by leading athletes, and I honour them for speaking so frankly. It may well be that the Games should be entirely reorganised as well as relocated. It may well be that they should be smaller and more frequent: a series of specialised occasions every year rather than a vast complex occasion every four years. There may be a plea for regionalism, culminating in a more select Olympiad at the very end.
If this country and its Association could take the lead in this, immense good might come from even this situation¤a situation which has developed, I fear, to the detriment of freedom and genuine amatuerism and to the advantage of the mortal enemies of both. I hope that this very useful 1221 debate, introduced most opportunely by the noble Earl, will not deter any of us from asserting our views to athletes and others between now and the date of the Moscow Games, and will do nothing to achieve among us the very disunity and disarray which will bring more aid and comfort to the enemies of freedom than even participation in their Games.
§ Lord GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, very much for the kind things he said about me, but in justice to myself may I just say that I do not want that to be construed by anybody as meaning that I approve of our attending, because I hope I made it clear that I do not.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
Yes, indeed, my Lords. As always, the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, made his view abundantly clear. I merely paid tribute to the fact that he asked us all to respect the motivation even of those who do not agree with him, and possibly with me.
§ Several Noble Lords: No! Order!
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ The MARQUESS of TWEEDDALE
My Lords, I thoroughly deplore the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It is certainly a monstrous act of aggression and I wholeheartedly agree with your Lordships' condemnation of it. Nevertheless¤and I am sorry to have to disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, to whom we should be grateful for the opportunity of debating this matter¤I think that our athletes are quite right to go to the Soviet Union for the Olympic Games, and I hope that the Government will not obstruct them any more than they have already done.
The character of the Soviet Union¤the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, touched on this point¤has hardly changed since the decision was taken to give her the task of hosting the Games in I, believe, 1972. Indeed, it has not changed all that much since the time, 40 years ago, when the Russians annexed Estonia. Perhaps I do not need to remind your Lordships that the sailing events of the Olympic Games will be 1222 taking place in Estonia. The Soviet action in Afghanistan is entirely characteristic. Once again, the Russians have taken what they saw as a desirable opportunity as it has arisen. No doubt, they are still scratching their heads over President Carter's failure effectively to exploit the opportunity with which the Iranians presented him in November.
America's upset over the Russians' action is perfectly understandable. They¤at least, this is how it will be seen in Moscow and elsewhere¤have had a march stolen on them. I will not deny that we have a duty to give America effective support, where necessary. We certainly have such a duty where sanctions against Iran are concerned and we have, at least partially, fulfilled that duty. But I do not think that our duty extends to spoiling, albeit highly political, sport.
Much has been made of the propaganda value to the Nazis of the 1936 Olympics. That event will be in the minds of all and it will considerably colour the world's perception of the 1980 Olympics. For, despite the similarities between 1936 and 1980, 1980 is 44 years on and during those years the world has seen the true nature of totalitarianism in a way that it could not in 1936. I think it will be evident to the majority of participants in, and spectators of, the 1980 Olympics what kind of a regime has organised them. If the omnipresence of the KGB and the absence of any kind of spontaneity, dissident or otherwise, is not enough, the news media, with all eyes on Russia, have a rare opportunity to educate.
I do not believe that attendance at Moscow will be taken as some kind of endorsement of the regime. The Olympic Games, whatever their original spirit, are not a great multi-national party¤perhaps, alas. They are, in fact, a ferociously competitive meeting of nations, which takes place somewhere or other every four years. The athletes are there to win, not just for themselves but for the countries they represent. The bulk of the kudos¤and this is really my most impotant point¤goes not to the country which is hosting the affair, but to the country winning the most medals. In 1936, those were one and the same. By their action, the Americans have made absolutely certain that the same thing will happen in 1980.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Lord GRANVILLE of EYE
My Lords, we are very indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for introducing this problem again. It is obvious that there are two views about it and, in contradistinction to the speech from my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, I cannot see why so many people are making a great fuss about not going to Moscow. I have said before, and I repeat, that the old Olympics as we knew them, and certainly as they were in the days of the Greek conception, are a dead duck. The change perhaps began in 1936 in that other totalitarian state. Perhaps we never noticed it happening then, or, if we did, we decided to disregard it.
Since then, there has been drug-taking by athletes and sex switching and, whatever may be said by the defendants, this is now a major weapon of Soviet foreign policy. Do not blame them, my Lords. They realise the propaganda value all over the world, in relation to their foreign policy. So they began in the schools making state athletes or state professionals entirely employed by the Moscow Government. Whatever excuses may be made, and whatever defence we put up, Moscow will be used by the Kremlin as a giant propaganda display, just as the 1936 Games were used.
But it is interesting to look at what is happening in our own country where sport is now god, where we have millionaire footballers, where a skater can win a competition and become a dollar millionaire next day, where we have riots on the terraces, where millions are gambled or won on the pools, and where there are side perks for winning. That is the name of the game, not the honour of winning.
When you talk to some of the people who are going to Moscow, they ask "What about Afghanistan? What was Munich?" I can understand that those who organise, and have to deal with this event every four years, may feel that they have a vested interest. How many sponsors have withdrawn and how many would like to withdraw? Have we any idea how many people are now saying that they will not pay a subscription any more to the Olympic fund?
A noble Lord referred to the television and radio. I hear people saying that 1224 when the Olympics in Moscow are shown on television they will turn them off, and I hope that the television authorities will take note of that. I wonder whether radio reports will be transmitted to Kabul. Then there are the labour camps. I wonder where the Russian dissidents are now. I believe that the Free World will begin again in the field of great international athletics, and that the Iron Curtain countries will have their own sports. That is what the future will be. We shall never go back to the old Olympics. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said: What can the Government do? Of course they cannot withdraw passports. But what we can do is to withdraw our acclamation.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord GRIDLEY
My Lords, I consider that we in your Lordships' House owe a great debt of gratitude this evening to my noble friend Lord Kimberley. Before I state my opinion on these issues, may I refer to the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Tweeddale. He feels that our athletes have every right to go to Moscow, but I wonder whether he has ever experienced personally what it is like to lose his freedom. Some years ago I lost my freedom when a country was overrun. I hope the circumstances in which I and many others suffered are not suffered by the noble Marquess.
The issues in the debate this evening are stark and real. They go far deeper than whether or not we should go to the Olympic Games. They involve the freedom of every individual in this country. They are designed to bring home to Russia the folly of making an unbridled attack on Afghanistan. My experience of the last war taught me that there is one thing that a nation which is partly Asiatic, as the Russians are, understands very clearly and very well; namely, the loss of face. I believe very sincerely that if there were to be a wholesale boycott of the Olympic Games the people who would lose face would be the Russians; and those people do not like losing face. I think it would be a contribution towards making them think, not once but many times, about whether it is wise to carry out an unbridled attack on another country. That is the first point I wish to make about freedom.
1225 I now wish to turn to the issue facing our athletes. Who are the people who are not going to Moscow? They are the Germans and the Japanese who lost the last war. They know very clearly what it is like to lose one's freedom. I do not know specifically whether they were influenced by their experiences some years ago, but it is my opinion that they probably were. They know only too well what suffering has been brought about through war and its attendant circumstances.
We in this country have never lost our freedom. We have never been invaded since 1066. I have felt on many occasions, when thinking about this boycott of the Olympic Games, that it might have been a good thing for some of us in this country if in fact we had been invaded and had come to realise what it would be like to lose one's freedom. We accept freedom totally, without accepting the responsibilities which go with it.
I fear that over the years there has been a woeful lack of leadership, particularly for our youth and athletes. I sympathise with them in their predicament. People ought to have got up, particularly people like Sir Denis Follows, and brought to the attention of the athletes of this world, and particularly of this country, what really are the issues. If our athletes go to Moscow, there is not the slightest doubt that the Russians will use it as a propaganda exercise. I must say quite frankly that I am ashamed of my country's lack of leadership at the present time.
I have a list here which shows that at today's date 77 countries are going to the Olympic Games, while 59 are not going. I hope that Britain will be added to those 59 countries so as to make the number 60. If 59 nations are not going to the Olympic Games, we shall be standing out by ourselves, yet this is a nation which has always prided itself on the fact that although it was not an architect of freedom it respects freedom and would go to any lengths to preserve it.
May I address my final remarks to the noble Marquess. If our athletes do not go to Moscow they will be playing a small part in preserving the peace of this country, of the world and of future generations. They will be making a small contribution to peace, and I believe that that is what this issue is all about.
§ The MARQUESS of TWEEDDALE
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he allow me just to point out, if it needs to be pointed out, that I am as much a protagonist of freedom as he is, but that the difference between us resides in the means which we each consider to be appropriate?
§ Lord GRIDLEY
My Lords, if the noble Marquess wishes me to answer him on that point, I equally am keen on one's freedom and attach value to it, but I think that sometimes one has got to make certain sacrifices, like not going to the Olympic Games, in order to preserve one's freedom. That is my answer to the noble Marquess, and I hope that we shall go away tonight and think about it.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Lord AUCKLAND
My Lords, some people may think that this question has been bandied about ad nauseum, and they could well be excused for thinking so, because whether or not this very interesting debate¤my noble friend Lord Kimberley has rendered us a service by enabling it to take place¤will move the moguls of the Kremlin one iota is a matter for conjecture. Anybody who has been behind the Iron Curtain, as I have been twice, although not to Moscow, will know that the word "freedom" is not in their dictionary.
Having said that, I think we must go back for a moment to the tradition of the Olympic Games. Those who have watched by means of the media the sight of the Olympic torch being borne from Mount Olympus to where the Games have taken place will agree that it is a most moving sight, particularly the singing of the Olympic hymn.
One of the questions which obviously must be asked is whether, if our competitors take part in these Games, they should attend the opening and closing ceremonies in Moscow. There are those who take the view that these ceremonies should be boycotted but that our competitors should take part. If this were the case, it is difficult to see that the Kremlin would regard it as an almighty snub. If the decision were made, even at the last moment, that all our competitors should withdraw, it would surely be absolutely essential that they should withdraw not only from the opening and 1227 closing ceremonies but also from the Games.
I am among those who hope against hope that this will ultimately be the case although I think at this late hour it is a forlorn hope. But, having said that, I think that some of the aspersions cast on our would-be competitors have been a little overdone¤to say the least. Of course, it can be argued that they are misguided. They face considerable dangers, as anybody who has been behind the Iron Curtain knows: bugging, compromising and all the other dangers which can take place, particularly to young people in a Communist country. Also it can be said that in the last war and in the 1914–18 war many young people who would have been splendid athletes, splendid musicians, splendid politicians, splendid farmers¤all kinds of professions¤made the supreme sacrifice or lost limbs instead. This is a very tenable and worthy argument. On the other hand, let us put ourselves in the place of a youngster of 20 or 21 who has trained in his or her spare time and often at his or her expense, to take part in a ceremony which carries a great deal of prestige, even though on this occasion it is being held in a country where the meaning of freedom is virtually unknown.
As the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, the Government themselves have not been entirely consistent on this¤perhaps through no fault of their own¤and I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, can tell your Lordships how much trade with Russia and her satellites has been cut off. I know that two wrongs do not make a right and probably so far as the Soviet Union is concerned they are too rhinoceros-skinned to feel the reductions in exports of the few machine tools or pharmaceuticals or some other product. But I think it would give some incentive to those athletes who still intend to take part and I believe that their outlook, however misguided, is sincere. They are not involved in politics and in their own minds they believe that they have a job to perform. Whether one likes it or not they see, and many people see, not only in this country but also in Australia and New Zealand who also (unhappily, in my view) have voted to take part in the Games but they may well see the sight of their governments carrying on too much trade (in their view) with 1228 Russia and her satellite countries. Therefore, I believe our Government and other governments could give a rather greater lead in this direction.
I think we have to look to the future as well. In four years' time the Games are due to be held in Los Angeles, a city which I have visited on one occasion and which I hope to visit briefly in about 10 days' time. I am not suggesting that Los Angeles will have the same problems as Moscow. In Los Angeles one can move freely, one has not got the KGB and others behind one's back, but there are other tensions. Los Angeles is a multiracial area; it is an area where there is a lot of poverty and I do not think that it will be all plain sailing. Indeed, wherever the Olympics are held today the same thing can be said. There is a growing feeling¤and I expect your Lordships have had it put to you, as I have¤that if we are to continue with the Olympics on their present scale they should go back to Greece.
There is a lot to be said for that. Of course, Greece is a country which has not known complete freedom and there are still tensions there now, but looking round possible countries where the Games could be held this would seem to be a solution if we are going to continue with these very worthy and very great Games. Another possibility, of course, would be a city which I know and love¤Helsinki. Helsinki has a spendid stadium but of course it is a small country; it would need a great deal of finance and there are considerable difficulties there. These are all points which I think have to be considered for the future, whatever happens in Moscow.
In conclusion, I would say this: We have heard a lot about Afghanistan and it is a shocking episode. I well recall in 1945, when I was a national serviceman in Austria, some of the depraved be haviour of Russian troops then¤and since. If one looks in retrospect, which of course it is always easy to do, the original choice of Moscow was bound to bring about these tensions because there has never been any real change in the Soviet Union in depth. There has perhaps been some surface change but these tensions and these barbaric conditions will always continue.
1229 In the last analysis all that we can hope for is that our athletes will in due course see the light. The reading of the Soviet Weekly, which only this week castigates the Americans for taking part, I think proves that some of the nerves of their teeth have been touched by the drill. One must only hope that some of the other countries and particularly countries such as Australia and New Zealand, who have narrowly voted to take part, will change their minds. But for a Government of a democracy such as ours, the powers of persuasion here are extremely difficult.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ The Marquess of EXETER
My Lords, I will not keep you more than a few moments, but there is obviously a great deal of miscomprehension as to what the Olympic Games actually are. They do not belong to the country which organises them. The country is given the privilege of doing that and they provide the facilities. When the Games start they are taken over by the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations of the sports concerned and the National Olympic Committee and this is the crest of a gigantic mountain. To give your Lordships some idea, the athletic one has 15 member countries. That is only one of them; admittedly it is the largest. If you like to take the Olympic committees, in this country the 21 sports in the summer Games have 59,500 lcubs. There are many clubs and bodies supporting it. There are millions and millions of people all over the world.
I have been in the Olympic movement ever since I was quite young. I competed in three Games and have attended all since then. I felt at the end of the war that what was going to happen in the world was that people were going to snarl at each other over the fence until they fought, or else ordinary people would be got out in full agreement with each other in a new camaraderie and friendship. I went to Moscow with that in mind, and they did come in due course, and they now mix freely in the village and wherever they go and in the international matches that they have. All this talk about moving the Games at short notice is quite ridiculous. It takes six or seven years to organise it. There are at the present moment 86 countries which have accepted 1230 to go, there are 29 who have said no, and 27 who have not answered.
§ The Marquess of EXETER
My Lords, I have the list here; this is from the International Olympic Committee. I have got their statement here, and I have counted them up myself. I do not know where the noble Earl has got his information from. At any rate, that is what has happened. I felt always that this was right and it has worked. I have been, as head of the world athletics, in practically every country in the world and many times over. It is no good sitting back in one country and saying that it does not. You ask our athletes who travel overseas. They will all tell you that they have made friends with the people there. They live in the Olympic Village. Admittedly, they have language difficulties, but they become friends. It does bring I people closer together. There is a warmth and camaraderie which you get from sport; it is the only movement in the world bringing the mass of ordinary people into a camaraderie, and that is why everythhing must be done to help.
That is why many of us felt that it was quite wrong in regard to the Afghanistan problem¤we are all opposed to what happened there¤to use as a weapon the one worldwide movement which is accepted by every country and amateur sport in the world. I am not talking about professional sport; professional sport is the entertainment business and you go into it for a livelihood, a perfectly worthy one. But that is not what we are talking about. In the Olympic Games all the people who take part see the notice on the board saying, "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part", as the essential thing in life is not to have conquered but to have fought well. It is nothing to do with countries. This silly business of using medal scores is ridiculous. How can you compare a gold medal which Bermuda gets in the yachting, a country with 30,000 people, with a country with 200 milliion people on the other side. It is an individual competition and there is a certain charisma about the Olympic Games which is not there in any other competition in the world. When you have competed, 1231 as I have, and been to them all, when you are asked, you say, "Yes, I competed in the Olympic Games". You do not say, "I won a gold medal or a silver medal "¤I won both, but that is not the point. That is not what sticks in your memory. You have been privileged to compete in the Olympic Games and feel part of that worldwide family. These are pure statements of fact and ones about which I can speak from personal experience because I have been all my life connected with the Olympics. I have been on the International Olympic Committee since 1933, and, as I say, I have been to all the Olympic Games as head of the world athletics for 30 years before I resigned four years ago. I know how strong this movement is.
I think it is quite wrong to try and take it out of the athletes by saying they must not go, and not do anything in any other direction to try to show your objections to what has happened. The invitation went to the Olympic Committees. As I say, 87 have said, Yes, including ours, except for three or four sports; all the rest have weighed things up and think that they ought to go, and they are going. That is what the position is today. I do think it wrong for this political pressure to be put on such a worldwide movement. They are the International Olympic Committee Games, not the Russian Games. They can be proud if they provide good facilities, like Tokyo, Montreal, Mexico, and as London was too. The actual games are nothing to do with the country where they are staged. They are entirely a matter for the International Olympic Committee.
§ Lord GRIDLEY
My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Marquess this before he sits down. These are figures from the Foreign Office today. Can he explain how it is that there are 59 countries not going and only 77 going?
§ The Marquess of EXETER
My Lords, I do not know where they get their information from, but I am taking it from the International Olympic Committee. All the information is given to them, and I have all the countries listed. There are 86 who have said yes, 27 who have said no, and there are 29 who have not answered, or had not when this came out on 29th May. This is from the body 1232 that runs the Games, not from the Foreign Office. This is the International Olympic Committee and they know how many people are going.
§ The Marquess of EXETER
My Lords, the Foreign Office are not running it. The invitation goes to the national Olympic Committees. It is the Games of the International Olympic Committee and their figures are much more likely to be right than any others you might get anywhere in the world, because they are the people who run it.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ The Earl of DUNDEE
My Lords, I must apologise for not having put my name on the list of speakers yesterday. As your Lordships know, some of our newspapers published in Scotland, and which do not have printing offices in London, do not get here until the following afternoon. It was not until this afternoon, rather late this afternoon, that I heard for the first time that the local authority in Fife, where I happen to live, have made a gift of £1,000 to Russia for the purpose of financing the Olympic Games, which may bring some joy to the Russians but none at all to the unhappy people of Afghanistan whom they are now oppressing and depriving of their homes and also of their freedom. I would have hoped that the local authority of Fife might perhaps have spent this money on the social and economic improvement of their own local population, who might have gained a little real benefit from it. But, my Lords, the local authority have preferred to make their handsome gift to the most oppressive Government, the Government of Soviet Russia, which our long-suffering world has ever known, and I hope that their unfortunate constituents in Fife will not forget it.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord KILMANY
My Lords, I, too, must apologise for not having put my name on the paper to speak earlier than I did. May I confine myself to following my noble friend on the local point, but although what I specifically raise is the figure concerned in Fife, it is the fact that 1233 other regional councils in Scotland have been moving in the same direction. The situation in the Fife region is that that council, on a vote, decided that they would donate £1,000 of the ratepayers' money to the Moscow Games appeal. It seems to me that in this free country if people want to support one thing or another they can do so, but to use the ratepayers' money for this purpose, which¤despite what my noble friend Lord Exeter has just said¤to very many people, as has been displayed in tonight's debate, is this abhorrent purpose, is to me an outrage. I do not want to speak merely in theory. I should like to ask my noble friend who is to reply to this debate whether he would be so good as to investigate the legal situation; whether in fact it is legal to devote ratepayers' money to such a purpose as this. He will no doubt require time to think it over, and I shall not press him too hard tonight, but perhaps he has already furnished himself with the answer.
It seems to me that it is outrageous for a regional council¤and this could apply not only to Fife, but to Strathclyde in bigger figures and to the Lothians Council in a figure between the Fife figure and the Strathclyde figure¤to act in this way. Is it really right, as regards a matter about which people feel so very sincerely, to devote the rates to such a purpose as these regional councils have seen fit to do?
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, the fact that three noble Lords have felt excited enough to make a contribution without having put their names on the list is a tribute to the debate and to my noble friend for initiating it. Normally one comes in to listen to one's colleagues and if one's name is not on the list one feels that restraint must win, and one does not speak. However, not on this occasion, because I think that this is an important debate which has raised so many different points.
I was really surprised by what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said. He seemed to give the appearance of wanting to throw in the sponge. The whole burden of his speech was: "Well, it may have been right to try to persuade people not to go, but it is all over now". However, it is not too late. Indeed, the 1234 impact of last minute decisions could perhaps be even more significant and important than they would seem to be if organised from the first and everything goes according to a preconceived plan. So I am sorry that he gave the impression of wanting to throw in the sponge. There is still time to do something about it.
The noble Lord then made what I thought was the rather amazing comment about nobody else having been asked to make the sacrifices other than the athletes. It depends how far back one wants to go. One recognises the point and the athletes have our genuine sympathy¤a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. Of course, they have trained for many years and have given a lot of thought to the matter; they have displayed great keeness, and it must be a grievous disappointment for it to be suggested that when the Games take place they will not be allowed to compete. One remembers in the last war how many professional people who had trained for years in their professions, how many people in business, and how many people in other aspects of life had given a great deal of their life to training and they knew that because the war had started they had to give it up, and did give it up, and it cost them a great deal. I claim that that was just as significant, and perhaps even more significant in the effect it had on their future life, their livelihood, and their ability to look after their families, than what one is asking the athletes to consider now.
They may say, "Ah, but that was wartime". Perhaps noble Lords do not appreciate that this war has been going on for some years. This is part of a war that has been going on for a considerable time. It is a war that we are not winning. Every year over the past five years they have taken over another country. It has been done under the auspices of somebody else, or they are supposed to have been invited. However, there is no cloak surrounding Afghanistan: they have gone right in. This war has been going on and it is one that we have been losing. There is a good chance that one can say that, in terms of getting themselves poised and getting raw material at their disposal, it is a war that the others are winning. So, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who is usually so 1235 astute as regards these matters, can say that they are being asked to make a sacrifice no one else has made. It is common form that people should make sacrifices of this kind when the issues at stake are as important as this one.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, I tried to suggest that in the last war I had to do just that. I had been articled and trained. I had reached the vital part of my business career and had borrowed money from the bank in order to become established. I had my commitments, but the law came in and I had to shut up shop.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
Just remember, my Lords, that 20 million Russians gave their lives as well, and Lady Churchill was running the charity.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, if the noble Lord wants to suggest out of gratitude that for part of the last war the Russians were our allies, but for only part of it when the real danger had gone, and if he is suggesting that in return for that sacrifice we must now forgive them anything they do and overlook any challenges they make to the freedom of the world, then I do not agree with him.
§ Lord SANDYS
Order, my Lords; the noble Lord must not make interruptions from a sedentary position.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, that is all very well, but the noble Lord's outlook is not the same as mine. I am saying that the noble Lord's noble friend in throwing in the sponge and in saying that no one else has made sacrifices, has not got his facts right. He speaks from the wrong basis.
I shall tell the noble Lord another matter that interseted me about what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, had 1236 to say on this matter. He suggested that we ought not to ask the athletes to think about withdrawing their competition because it had not been made statutory. How long has the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, believed in conscription for everything? The strength of this is that it is a voluntary effort. Indeed, if it were to be made statutory¤which is conscription¤it would have lost its impact. I would say the same to my noble friend Lord Auckland as regards this matter. The strength of it is not that we have not removed all of the trade and all of our other commitments; the strength of it is that it would have been a message from people to people. It was not just another Government move against another Government.
I should like to point out to my noble friend Lord Exeter that if he really believes that the prestige of where the Games are held goes only to the International Athletics Committee and not to the country where they are held, he is completely wrong. It was shown in Germany, and it is clear again to-day if one reads the pamphlets and advertisements that have already been issued by Russia. They have made the great claim¤it is there on the record for the noble Marquess to see¤and they have said, "We are accepted because our country has been chosen to be the base for the Games". They are already doing it. The noble Marquess said that it is not their Games. He was quoting the pure theory that the regulations and the rules of the International Olympic Committee state that the Games are international. He and I have been in Greece when the European Games were held there, when the Colonels were sitting alongside us. He knows that the place where the Olympics take place benefits from a large part of the prestige that flows from the Games.
§ The Marquess of EXETER
My Lords, perhaps I may clear up that point. From the moment of the opening ceremony the Games have nothing to do with the host city. The host city has only to provide the facilities. The International Olympic Committee, the International Federation and the National Olympic Committees take over the whole thing for that time. The host city can be proud of the facilities, but it has no say in the Games.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, I merely say to the noble Marquess that of course that is true. But he is quoting the theory of it. I am trying to remind him of the facts of the case. In their advertisements over the last six to eight months the Russians have not said how proud they are to have the Games in Moscow. They did not say that it was the International Olympic Committee that was entitled to all this prestige. Of course there is prestige. The noble Marquess also referred to the great power because of the charisma which the Games have. It is because they have that charisma and they have that impact that the contribution which they can make to freedom in the world can be made use of by the athletes.
The noble Marquess, Lord Tweeddale, asked why in 1972 the Games were held in Germany in the first place. It is a very fair question. However, in the light of the situation it was not necessarily a stupid move. In 1972 we were in the middle of what was known as detente, when everybody wanted to try to smooth out the antagonisms between the East and the West. In those years there were signs that perhaps both sides had seen the light and there was a chance that we would have detente and some sort of co-operation, one nation with another. It is the events that have taken place since then that have confirmed that detente seems to be a myth. It is because things have changed that the idea of their being there and their approach to it also have to change.
I do not think that we can ignore the impact which the Games had on Germany, which was raised by the noble Marquess. The only person I remember who at that time, in 1972, made a real protest about the Games going to Moscow, funnily enough, was Mr. Beverley Nichols, the journalist and writer. He was the one; yes, I think so. He said that he was at the German Games in 1936 and he recognised the impact that that was having, and at the time that Russia was accepted he recommended that we did not do it because of the impact it could have. He was the only person I can remember who made a first-class effort to try to avoid it happening.
But I believe that there are bigger issues at stake. My noble friend, who quoted 1238 Los Angeles, said that the multiracial problems would be present. Of course, there will be all sorts of problems. He recognises the difference between the internal problems and stresses that we all have and the attacking of another country, such as happened in Afghanistan. If we do not recognise that this is something special and significant, of course our views must be different. The noble Marquess, Lord Tweeddale, said that we must not spoil the sports. If the choice is between spoiling the sports and, as the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, said, making a contribution to the freedom of the world, then we have to spoil this particular sport. I am sorry that some noble Lords are so irritated, but it is an issue that I wanted on the record, and I should like my contribution to be included in it. I hope that even at this last minute the athletes who have the power in their own hands as individuals will see that possibly the greatest contribution they can make to the freedom of sport in the future is not to take part in these particular Olympic Games because of the circumstances surrounding the attack on Afghanistan.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, although I have answered more than one starred Question on the matter before us tonight, this is the first occasion on which I have been able to put the Government's position in any detail. I am therefore grateful to my noble friend Lord Kimberley for this opportunity to do so. First, I want to emphasise that the Government's attitude towards Britain's participation in the Moscow Olympics stems from our belief that the success or failure of the Games will affect every nation of the world and each and every one of their people. As I ventured to suggest to your Lordships some months ago, the edifice of detente has lately been shaken to its very foundations. Indeed, the new climate in international relations threatens a return to the cold war of 20 years ago.
What is it that has brought us to this sorry pass? It is quite simply that Russia, one of the two most powerful nations on earth, has, without the faintest shred of a pretext, marched into a nonaligned and sovereign neighbour in an obscene, display of massive and unprovoked aggression. They are now encamped no more than 400 miles from the 1239 heart of the West's vital oil supplies and hardly further from the deep, warm water ports of Pakistan, so long the object of their desires and aspirations.
But in the midst of these vital strategic implications, let us not forget the plight of the poor Afghanis. They find themselves ruled by an alien puppet no more representing their considered choice than the man in the moon. They find the Russian soldiery at every street corner, they hear incessant gunfire and rumble of tanks, and your Lordships will have seen the reports of many civilians, including school children, being shot and killed. Thus, we and our friends had to consider what effective¤and I emphasise the word "effective "¤action we could take to bring home to the Soviets the enormity of what they have done.
There was clearly no purpose in cutting off ordinary commercial contacts which the Russians could easily replace elsewhere. Equally there was no purpose in stopping routine exchanges about which ordinary Russians knew or cared little. We thus decided that our response to Afghanistan needed to be selective and would rely for its success on being visible and obvious to the whole world, including above all the Soviet people. I will not dwell on the detailed steps in commercial and cultural fields which my noble friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 24th January, except to recall that the single most important component of that package, and certainly the one likely to be far and away the most effective, was a Western boycott of the Olympics.
We reached this conclusion because we knew that the Russians attached the highest propaganda value, and understandably so, to the world-wide television and media coverage of the games. They would seek to show, by implication at least, that the very fact that the world had come to Moscow for the Olympics indicated approval of Soviet policies and the Soviet System. We believed then, as now, that if re-location of the Games could not be achieved, it was highly desirable that the watching world, not excluding the Russian people, should see the gaps and notice the absences, particularly from the winner's podium.
Let no one doubt the importance the Russians attach to these Olympics. They 1240 have made it clear, as my noble friend Lord Kimberley said, that the Games were to be used as a demonstration to the world of what they called the "correctness of the foreign political course" of the Soviet Union and of its services to peace. Your Lordships may recognise these words as coming from the now notorious Handbook for Party Activists which I have quoted to your Lordships before. The use of the Games in this way, as a vehicle for phoney and cynical political expression, surely flies in the face of the ideals of the Olympic movement.
The British Government have themselves been criticised for abusing the Olympic Charter by allegedly putting pressure on our athletes not to go to Moscow. Some press reports have referred to "berating", "bullying" and "hectoring". I am surprised that the Prime Minister's advice in her letters to Sir Denis Follows has attracted such criticism. The critics appear to overlook the fact that the Soviet Union would not itself stop at just offering advice to its athletes. Indeed, the lengths to which the Russians are going to ensure the propaganda success of the Games are extraordinary. The steps taken against dissidents, such as Professor Sakharov, to ensure that they have no contact with visitors have dismayed the Free World. These and other measures taken to ensure that the Olympic area in Moscow is rendered clinically clear of any temptation which might contaminate Russian citizens are reminiscent of the action taken by the Nazis at the time of the 1936 Games.
Indeed, the Soviet authorities themselves published, as early as April last year, well before Afghanistan, a propaganda book on past Olympics which contained a telling chapter on the Berlin Games. In it they said that the preparatory programme of Nazi propaganda includeda number of police actions, with a view to concealing from the foreign public elimination of democratic freedom".The book contains several other interesting parallels between 1936 and 1980, including complimentary references to athletes who refused to attend the Berlin Games because of Nazi policies. It is hardly surprising that after Afghanistan this book has been withdrawn from the Soviet market and copies rounded up.
It is also said that we should not mix politics with sport. Yes, in a perfect 1241 world that would indeed be very nice. But, alas! the Soviets have always seen international sport as an important instrument of government policy. Politics were much in evidence, were they not, at the Montreal Olympics? I will not bore your Lordships with further quotations from the Handbook for Party Activists which I mentioned earlier, but suffice it to say that, contrary to the wishful thinking of many, sport and politics are already hopelessly entwined.
Again, it is said that the Government are unfairly asking the athletes to fight their battles for them. I have already referred to the importance, in Soviet eyes, of a successful Games. Thus, we are not asking athletes to fight our battle, but their battle. In former times the British have not been unwilling to stand up on a matter of principle. We are surely entitled to ask the athletes, the officials, and the spectators to do their duty now.
May I now pause for a moment to deal with some of the specific points that have been raised this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, referred to United States' disappointment that so many of their friends and allies had not been able to follow their example in not accepting the invitation to go to Moscow. I certainly think that the noble Lord is right. We deeply regret that the IOC fail to recognise the need to stand foursquare behind the United States in this matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, asked about the position regarding compensation. Citizens, whether athletes or not, have rights and responsibilities towards the maintenance of freedom. It would be consistent with these responsibilities, as I suggested earlier, if they were to decide to stay away from the Moscow Games, but the decision has to be made by individuals themselves. We have every sympathy with those placed in this dilemma, but we consider that the Government should not be under any obligation to pay compensation to those who choose not to go or who have unfortunately lost deposits placed, for example, with travel agents.
My noble friends Lord Dundee and Lord Kilmany referred to the question of the donation which is apparently to be 1242 made by the Fife local authority. I am informed that local authorities do have the power to act in this way and that they are able to contribute a sum of up to 2p rate for this kind of purpose. As my noble friend said, it is of course up to the local authorities to decide how to spend ratepayers' money, but local authorities also enjoy financial support from central Government through the rate support grant, and clearly we shall wish to consider whether there is anything further that we should do in that connection.
Several noble Lords raised the position regarding television coverage. Worldwide television coverage of the summer Olympics is clearly essential and indeed vital for the propaganda drive that the Russians will undoubtedly stage during the Moscow Games. In our country the BBC and IBA have of course complete editorial responsibility for the contents of their programmes, subject to the law and within the general rules prescribed by the BBC Charter and the Act of Parliament governing the Independent Broadcasting Authority. As my right honourable friend the Home-Secretary said in another place on 28th February, it would be contrary to long-established practice, endorsed by successive Governments, for Ministers to seek to influence them in deciding what to broadcast. It is therefore for the two authorities alone to decide what coverage to give to the Moscow Olympics, and we understand that they are in close touch on this matter.
My noble friend Lord Auckland referred to the possibility of a reduction in ceremonial at the Games. Reduction of ceremonial is no substitute for a boycott. We welcome the proposal discussed by both the Executive Committee at Lausanne and the Western European NOCs in Rome, and indeed we note that Lord Killanin made proposals on the reduction of ceremonial to Presidents Brezhnev and Carter; but we do not believe that a reduction in ceremonial would be an adequate substitute for non-participation, which remains the most effective way of bringing home to the Russian people the international opprobrium to which Soviet aggression has given rise.
My noble friend Lord Auckland also asked me how much trade had been cut off. I am afraid that I am not able to give him a figure because at this stage it is 1243 not possible to guess how much trade would have flowed from the soft credit agreement which has not been renewed, but low interest rates provided for by that agreement would doubtless have been very attractive to the Soviet Union, particularly in the present international climate of high interest rates.
My noble friend also referred to the Greek offer of a permanent site for the Olympics. This is indeed an interesting offer, but it is for the IOC to consider this matter in the first place. I believe that for Governments to comment at this stage would be to inject a political element which the offer is designed to avoid, but we understand that the IOC are now actively considering this proposal.
Finally, my Lords, perhaps I might offer some additional figures on those who have accepted and refused. I am not quite sure where the so-called Foreign Office figures came from, because they are not the ones that I have by me; but according to the figures that I have, 78 countries have accepted and 55 have refused. But, of couse, there are additional countries which have not yet made up their minds.
This brings me to the success or otherwise of the boycott. Much has been spoken and much has been written on this subject, and doubtless there will be more. There are those who claim that since the majority of the NOCs have accepted the invitation to go to Moscow, the boycott has failed. Others¤and I count myself among them¤believe that it is not quantity but quality that counts. An Olympic Games in which there are no American athletes, no Germans, no Canadians, no Kenyans and no Japanese cannot be a meaningful international event. The Moscow Organising Committee has said that a number of NOCs have not yet replied to the invitation to go to Moscow, and that the deadline will be extended in order to enable them to do so without penalty. They could decide either way. In addition, the deadline for the submission of the lists of competitors is not until 10 days before the event. The fact that an NOC has accepted to go to Moscow and has submitted a list of events in which it will compete is not the end of the affair. There is still time for individual sporting associations and 1244 individual athletes to change their minds and to decide not to compete. We hope that they will do so.
In one sense, of course, neither the boycott nor any of the measures we have taken since the Soviet invasion can be regarded as wholly successful while the killing and maiming continue in Afghanistan. That is why, from the Government's point of view, it is deeply regrettable that many of our sportsmen and women have decided to go to Moscow, and that similar decisions have been taken elsewhere, in many cases against the advice of Governments. That is why we shall continue to advise and to seek to persuade our athletes not to go.
But as we have said from the very start, the decision on whether or not to go rests finally with the athletes themselves. They must reconcile their decision with their consciences. They must have regard to their duty as citizens as well as to their particular sport. They must consider the overwhelming evidence that they will be assisting the Soviet Union's propaganda machine. They should reflect upon the fate of the many dissidents rounded up and imprisoned lest they should blurt out the awful truth of life in their dreary and soulless country. But, above all, they should reflect upon the fate of those hundreds, even thousands, of Afghanis who now lie murdered in the streets and mountains of their homeland. British athletes may doubtless win more medals this year than prevoiusly, but I, for one, will turn away in shame as they mount the winners' rostrum in Moscow.