This past Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released an announcement stating that it plans to enforce its rules banning athletes from demonstrating at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. In the announcement, the IOC stated that kneeling or raising a fist will see to a swift punishment.
The IOC’s “rule 50” states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” However, the IOC reviewed the rule after professional athletes from America protested their own national anthem.
The IOC released a report explaining its decision on the matter, It stated that it conducted a series of surveys of more than 3,500 international athletes across the world in the past year and discovered that “a clear majority of athletes believe that it is not appropriate for athletes to demonstrate or express their views” throughout the Games.
“I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today,” stated Kirsty Coventry, IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chief, a former Olympic champion in swimming for Zimbabwe, reported Reuters.
When questioned about whether or not athletes will be punished for any violations, Coventry responded, “Yes, that is correct.”
“That is also because of the majority of athletes we spoke to — that is what they are requesting for,” she continued.
In the release, the IOC also stated, “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.”
The final decision on “Rule 50” comes about a week after a top Japanese official stated that this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo may be canceled due to a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in countries across the world that plan to participate.
The secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai, stated in an interview with a Japanese broadcaster that if the games seem “impossible to do … then we have to stop, decisively,” Reuters stated.
He went on to say that cancellation is “of course” a viable option, adding: “If the Olympics were to spread infection, then what are the Olympics for?”
However, Reuters reported that the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee released a statement assuring that those preparing for the 2021 Games remain fully committed to hosting them beginning on July 23rd.