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Taking a knee and other forms of athlete protest to be banned at Tokyo Olympics

The IOC has approved a recommendation from its own Athletes’ Commission to curtail the right to protest on the field of play.

The Olympic rings in Tokyo.
The Olympic rings in Tokyo.
Image: Koji Sasahara

TAKING A KNEE is set to be outlawed at the Tokyo Olympics after the International Olympic Committee approved a recommendation from its own Athletes’ Commission to curtail the right to protest on the field of play.

Two thirds of respondents to a survey relating to a potential change of the IOC’s Rule 50, which bans demonstrations of “political, religious or racial propaganda” on Olympic sites, said they did not feel such protests were appropriate.

Athletes’ Commission chair Kirsty Coventry said: “A very clear majority of athletes said that it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies, or on the podium, and so our recommendation is to preserve (those places) from any kind of protests and demonstrations or acts perceived as such.”

A total of 3,547 athletes representing 185 countries and 41 sports responded to the survey, as part of a 10-month consultation process initiated by the widespread social and racial justice movements in the United States.

Coventry said the recommendation – which Bach confirmed had been “unanimously approved” – would now be passed to the IOC’s legal affairs commission in order to consider the range of potential sanctions against those who fail to adhere to the rule.

Coventry added: “We are asking the legal affairs commission to come up with a proportionate range of different sanctions, so that everyone knows going into a Games what they can and can’t do. It’s up to (them) to give the Athletes’ Commission guidance on proportionality.”

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