2020 Olympics Committee Bans Athletes From Making Political Statements During Ceremonies

Published on January 11, 2020

The International Olympic Committee is banning athletes from making political statements at the 2020 games in Tokyo. 

Rule 50 Stops Athletes from Making Political Statement

The Olympic Committee released guidelines, outlining political statements made during the games is not allowed.

“Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter provides a framework to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games. It states that, ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas,” according to the statement. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission wants athletes to refrain from making any controversial statement “to respect” athletes’ crowning achievements, and to “not draw attention away” from their special moment.

“As athletes, we are passionate about our sports and achieving our sporting performance goals,” the guidelines say. “For each and every one of us, that passion continues into everyday life, where we advocate for change on issues of great importance to us and our world. That desire to drive change can naturally make it very tempting to use the platform of an appearance at the Olympic Games to make our point.”

Types of Protests Banned

Some examples that constitute a protest according to the commission’s guidelines include, “displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands. Gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling, [and] refusal to follow the Ceremonies protocol.”

Protesting is not allowed on the field of play, in the Olympic Village, during the Olympic medal ceremonies, the opening or closing, and other official ceremonies.

Athletes protesting in ceremonies or restricted areas face three rounds of disciplinary action. The IOC will review each incident on a case-by-case basis.

The IOC points out: “expressing views” is different from “protesting or demonstrating.” These rules extend to trainers, coaches, officials, and any accredited person.

Areas Athletes Can Express Their Political Opinions

But athletes and accredited officials can express their political opinions outside the village, on social media and during interviews. 

The IOC says keeping political statements away from designated areas is meant to unite and send a positive message to an already divided world. 

“We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world,” the IOC said in a statement.

“This is why it is important, on both a personal and a global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations.”

Rule 50 Drafted After U.S. Athletes Protest in 2019 Peru Olympics

Rule 50 came to fruition after two U.S. athletes, Fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry protested on the medal stand during the American Games in Lima, Peru.

Imboden won a gold and bronze medal and kneeled to bring attention to social injustices. 

“We must call for change. This week I am honored to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Games, taking home Gold and Bronze. My pride however has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country I hold so dear to my heart. Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants…”

Race Imboden (@Race_Imboden)—Aug 9, 2019

And Berry told NBC sports she raised her fist during the national anthem on the medal podium was highlighting everything she’s been through. 

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she told NBC Sports. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Kevin Pichinte is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is a news associate at ABC7 and was formerly a digital news intern at NBC7 and TLM20. At Grit Daily, he covers entertainment and culture news.

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