Labour councillors and Assembly Members have attacked Conservative AM Brian Coleman for comments in a local newspaper column.
Writing in the Barnet Press, Mr Coleman said “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 practitoners, and Roman catholic priests who are being tortured and held in labour camps just a few miles from the glittering ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium.”
As well as serving on the London Assembly Mr Coleman was appointed as Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority after Boris Johnson’s victory in May.
Coleman said Mayor Johnson had been “forced to go” Beijing to collect the Olympic flag and that he would have “told the International Olympic Committee to put it in the post.”
Labour Assembly member Valerie Shawcross said: “The Mayor’s support for our athletes as they return from Beijing has been totally undermined by one of his senior appointments. Mr Coleman has gone out of his way to personally attack, insult and disparage the remarkable achievements of the British team.”
“While the rest of the country have seen how uplifting success at the Olympics can be, and have swung behind London 2012, Mr Coleman’s gross insult does nothing but undermine and embarrass the city. We should be giving our young athletes all the resources and support possible, not rubbishing and going out of our way to put them down.”
Coleman’s comments were also condemned by Cllr Alison Moore, Leader of Barnet Labour Group who said: ‘Brian Coleman is a key appointee of Boris Johnson’s, and the real face of the Tory party in London – however much David Cameron tries to dress up his party. Coleman’s comments should not be allowed to undermine London’s image as a forward-looking city that is proud to welcome visitors to enjoy the Games in 2012.”
“Quite frankly Boris Johnson should sack him – we just can’t have senior members of the Mayor’s team attacking Olympic heroes in this fashion.”
Attempting to distance him from the article a spokesman for the Mayor told this site: “Brian Coleman is entitled to his views on the Olympics, which is a matter of taste and political opinion. But 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 was a very proud moment to receive the Olympic flag on behalf of London for the 2012 Games.”
“He rejects absolutely any suggestion that Britain’s athletes are “tainted with the blood of Tibetans, Falun gong practitioners and Roman Catholic priests.”
“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.”
Mr Coleman had not responded to our email requesting a response by the time of publication.