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Gymnastics New Zealand
Paedophile Hysteria …. Index

The Press
September 26 2006

Gymnastics 'target' for paedophiles

Gymnastics has long been a target for paedophiles in New Zealand and overseas, says Invercargill judge, coach and organiser Colin McMullien.

The issue has been brought into the public eye with Gymnastics New Zealand (GNZ) making spectators register and label their cameras and cellphone cameras during this week's national championships in Christchurch because of concerns about paedophiles.

McMullien, who will be judging in Christchurch this week, said one of his unofficial roles at gymnastics events was ensuring there were no suspicious people in the crowd.

"We do encounter the odd strange fellow in gymnastics," McMullien said.

"I've spoken to (alleged paedophiles) before at camps. At a camp in Christchurch I was asked to speak to one guy and he got the message."

GNZ's camera protocol was based on a ruling brought in by the sport's international body, McMullien said.

McMullien has been helping organise the Southland primary schools Gymfest, an event which is run under the banner of the Department of Education and was therefore not subject to the GNZ ruling, for the past 22 years.

McMullien said he had not encountered any problems at Gymfest, but other gymnastics events in Southland had attracted unsavoury characters.

He has also been alerted about offenders by Invercargill District Court staff in the past.

Synchro Swim New Zealand's national championships were completed at Invercargill's Splash Palace yesterday and meeting organiser Michelle Anderson said the sport was aware of the issue.

A similar process to the gymnastics protocol had been used at synchro meets in Australia.

"We talked about it at the coaches and managers meeting at the start of the nationals. There are some children who don't want to be photographed because of privacy issues," Anderson said.

Swimming New Zealand spokesman Ian Hepenstall was not aware of any limitations on cameras being allowed into national events in his sport.

At venues used for major meetings, there were restrictions on who was allowed poolside, and that included only accredited photographers. –Southland Times