Podium protests, taking knee remains outlawed at Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board (EB) showed support for athletes’ freedom of expression at this year’s Tokyo Olympics but made it clear that they should restrain from protesting on the podium, field of play and official ceremonies.

The EB met virtually on Wednesday and supported the recommendations on the Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter proposed by the IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC), which aimed to amplify the voices of athletes, Xinhua reports.

In the current Olympic Charter in force as from July 17, 2020, Rule 50.2 states that: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

With increasing calls to amend Rule 50, the IOC AC was tasked with exploring additional ways of how Olympic athletes could express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter.

After conducting qualitative and quantitative consultation since June 2020 among over 3,500 athletes, representing 185 different National Olympic Committees and all 41 Olympic sports, the IOC AC proposed recommendations on Rule 50 that suggests athletes enjoy more chances to express themselves at and outside the Olympic Games, including at the opening and closing ceremonies, through athlete apparel and social media.

However, the majority of surveyed athletes believed podium, field of play and official ceremonies should be a moment of celebration of the athletes’ performances, sport and the Olympic values, although some felt that freedom of speech outweighed the other arguments.

In the quantitative study, a clear majority of athletes said that it is not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play (70% of respondents), at official ceremonies (70% of respondents) or on the podium (67% of respondents).

The AC also proposed that clarity to be provided on the scope of Rule 50 and on sanctions in case of a rule breach.

According to the IOC, the recommendations will be taken into account from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 onwards. The proposed change of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter will be addressed, taking the evaluation of the implementation at one edition of the Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020) and one edition of the Olympic Winter Games (Beijing 2022) into account.