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ACCESS DENIED: Voice readers furious over Olympic snub

OLYMPIC STAR: Usain Bolt

VOICE READERS have rallied around Britain’s longest-serving black newspaper after it was denied a media pass to the Olympic Stadium.

Last week, the newspaper which marks its 30th anniversary this year, published an article outlining how the British Olympics Association (BOA) had told them their application had been unsuccessful.

It blamed the decision on an “extraordinary interest and demand from UK media”, which meant there were approximately 400 accreditations for over 3,000 requests.

At the same time, BOA has led a high-profile campaign highlighting London’s cosmopolitan culture, and the games itself were won on the back of the city’s rich diversity.

The Voice has been inundated with messages of support from readers, MPs, campaigners, celebrities and journalists who started their career at the newspaper.

Readers turned to social networking sites including Twitter and Facebook to vent their fury, and activist Zita Holbourne set up an online petition asking the BOA to reconsider their decision.

Holbourne said: "I was furious. There has been a catalogue of errors and issues around the Olympics and this is just one more thing.

“If the BOA are using blanket criteria to assess whether or not a publication is suitable for accreditation has a disproportionate negative impact on smaller and specialist publications and, obviously, The Voice is a specialist publication.

“Given the number of black athletes that are competing in the Olympics that Team GB rely on for Olympic success, no accreditation for the biggest-selling black newspaper is just atrocious.”

She said it would be the same for publications whose readership is made up of people with disabilities not being given access to the Paralympics and said the accreditation process needed to be reviewed.

Lester Holloway, a former editor of the New Nation, said: “It’s a disgrace. The Olympic bid was won on the back of Britain’s diversity. It seems the Olympic authorities are willing to reap the benefits, but not willing to recognise Britain’s top black newspaper.

“It takes me back to when I was a reporter at The Voice and we had to fight the parliamentary authorities to get accreditation to cover for the House of Commons. There were no black journalists at that time.

“It was a hard fought battle that went on for number of years and eventually we were allowed in. The fact that we are here again in 2012, shows how behind the times the Olympic authorities are.”

Jamaican High Commissioner Aloun Assamba said: “I’m very disappointed to hear this, because The Voice has a responsibility to its readership which is made up primarily of African, Caribbean and Black British people.

“Our nations have provided great support to Britain in the development of this country and our great athletes, especially those from Jamaica, are a huge drawing card. It would be good for a newspaper who serves this community to receive accreditation.”

Simon Woolley, chief executive of Operation Black Vote, said: “I think it’s shocking. I’m absolutely gobsmacked. The Voice is the preeminent black newspaper in this country and given that the success of winning the games was predicated on diversity, it is shameful that the games authorities would seek to overlook it.

“The authorities are prepared to use black Britons to win the games but we’re not allowed to play a central role in the games, neither in the management or, clearly, the reporting.

"I hope that the games authorities will rethink their position. Without the Voice there, there is no black British perspective on the games. The Mirror, the Sun and the Guardian will not report the same story."

We are awaiting a response from the British Olympic Association (BOA) on the criteria they applied in making its decision and which media outlets have gained accreditation.

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