Clijsters enrages Belgians by boycotting Olympics

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The Independent Online

Kim Clijsters was heavily criticised at home here yesterday over her decision to boycott next year's Athens Olympics because of a commercial contract.

Her Belgian compatriot Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, led the chorus of complaints against Clijsters, who said she would skip the Games because the Belgian Olympic Committee would not allow her to wear an outfit provided by her personal sponsor, Fila, to collect a possible medal.

The decision of the world No 2, once the darling of Belgian sports fans, made the front pages of all the newspapers, topped by such headlines as "Making money is more important than taking part" and "Sponsors more important than medals".

She decided to boycott the Games even though the Belgian Olympic Committee had made a major concession, allowing her to play in her Fila outfit instead of one provided by the team's sponsor, Adidas, during the Olympics. The committee insisted that should Clijsters win a medal, she would have to wear the official Adidas team outfit during the ceremony.

Rogge said Clijsters' decision highlighted a lack of solidarity, not only with her Belgian team-mates but also with poorer athletes from around the world who need financial help to make it to the Olympics.

"The wearing of the Adidas shirt will show solidarity," he said. "The problem is that 80 per cent of athletes don't have enough financial support when they go to the Olympics." Rogge added that he thinks Clijsters will "regret her decision".

Her compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne has already committed herself to playing in Athens. Henin-Hardenne took over the world's top ranking from Clijsters last month.

"I want to remain loyal to the people with whom I have closed a contract," Clijsters said of her decision. "They were the only ones interested in me two years ago."

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