Olympics Bars Athletes From Making Political Protests at 2020 Games

“Disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis” for protesting

Olympians Barred from Protesting at 2020 Games
Tommie Smith and John Carlos engage in a victory stand protest at the 1968 Olympics. (Getty)
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By Evan Bleier / January 10, 2020 11:17 am

In a memo that was distributed by the International Olympic Committee and organization president Thomas Bach, athletes who are competing at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo were informed that political protests, including kneeling and raising a fist, are prohibited.

According to the IOC, all Olympic venues, including the medal podium and Athlete Village, must be free of protests in order “to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games.”

To do that, the IOC has introduced Rule 50 to the Olympic Charter. It states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Actions that are prohibited include displaying any political messaging (including signs or armbands), gestures of a political nature like hand gestures or kneeling and refusal to follow the Ceremonies protocol.

“It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference,” the IOC said Thursday. “Specifically, the focus for the field of play and related ceremonies must be on celebrating athletes’ performance, and showcasing sport and its values.”

According to the IOC, if an athlete or participant in the Games violates the no-protest policy, “disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary.”

As USA Today columnist Nancy Armour points out, the ban is hypocritical because politics and the Olympics are linked whether we like it or not.

“Much as Bach might like it to be, the Olympics is not some magical fairyland where problems don’t exist and there is universal harmony,” she writes. “There is an Olympic refugee team because of war and corrupt politicians. The heartwarming stories of athletes who have overcome tough circumstances are often rooted in poverty and discrimination. Bach and his Olympic cohorts have their ways of making the world a better place. They should recognize, and respect, that the athletes do, too.”

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