A long-standing Olympics rule has been that the athletes are prohibited from protesting or demonstrating while they’re on the podium. It has now been announced that that rule will remain in place for the Tokyo Olympics.
Athletes can still get creative if they want to protest during the Olympics, but they will not be allowed to do so while in the Olympics venues, or on the podium for a medal ceremony.
“Rule 50 does not aim to silence athletes or make them apolitical,” according to the athletes’ commission report. “The IOC appreciates that athletes may wish to be vocal or political about issues they feel strongly about. Rule 50 aims to protect the political, religious and racial neutrality of a few strictly defined locations (field of play, Olympic Village) and of a few strictly defined moments (Olympic medal ceremonies, Opening, Closing and other official Ceremonies) which form the core of the Olympic Games.
“Although the restriction imposed by Rule 50 may appear too sweeping, especially if compared to some sports organizations which allow expression in support of social (as opposed to political) causes, there are significant difficulties that an organization as diverse and universal as the IOC would face in distinguishing between admissible and inadmissible causes. For this reason, a blanket of neutrality is deemed an appropriate and proportionate solution, including from a human rights perspective, given the risk of politicizing the IOC and alienating countries or athletes.”
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“A very clear majority of athletes said that they think it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies or at the podium,” IOC Athletes’ Commission chief Kirsty Coventry said.
“So our recommendation is to preserve the podium, field of play and official ceremonies from any kind of protest or demonstrations or acts perceived as such.”
If athletes do protest, it’s said that they’ll be punished, but it’s not clear what that exact punishment would entail.
We’ll see if this turns into an issue in Tokyo this Summer, with the growing number of athletes around the world using their platforms to protest injustices rising every day.