The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will punish athletes who use any platform during the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to make political statements such as take a knee or put a fist up in the air.
The Olympic Games which was rescheduled from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic begins on July 23 this year. The process involved consultations with more than 3,500 athletes, none of who can use the occasion to publicize their views on politics or advocate an unambiguous political belief.
The IOC’s announcement, or rather clarification, was contained in an answer by former Zimbabwean world and Olympic champion, Kirsty Coventry, who was speaking to the press on Wednesday. She was asked to reiterate if the IOC’s Rule 50 will be applied in cases where athletes advocate against anti-Black racism, a campaign that has globally been identified since last year with taking a knee.
“Yes that is correct…That is also because of the majority of athletes we spoke to, that is what they are requesting for,” Coventry said.
Rule 50 bars any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda”. The Olympic Games, and sporting festivals in general, have historically been globally significant occasions seized by those with an intent to raise awareness of a political problem, belief, or simply for political celebrations. The most infamous moment in an Olympic Games event remains the 1968 Black Power Salute by the Black American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Heading to the games, the IOC found itself dealing with questions of what its posture would be if the Colin Kaepernick-inspired knee bending gesture was repeated by athletes at the games. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which saw a global birth in the aftermath of the killing of Minnesotan George Floyd, is generally perceived as a campaign of inclusivism.
This led some, such as Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to support calls for athletes to openly gesture in support of BLM.