Tokyo Olympics: IOC to allow limited protests but the threat of disqualification stays

Participants at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will have more opportunities for expressing themselves and protesting but would be disqualified or stripped of medals if they engage in social activism in areas and manners other than those permitted.

The IOC on Friday relaxed some provisions of the controversial Rule 50.2 of Olympic Charter and approved guidelines for participants to express themselves during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, allowing sportspersons to give their views including on the field of play prior to start of the competition, through interviews, protests or gestures.

The guidelines were approved by the IOC Executive Board on Friday.

“These Guidelines provide athletes and other Games participants with guidance on the implementation of Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter, which is aimed at preserving the protection of the neutrality of sport at the Olympic Games and the neutrality of the Games themselves,” the IOC said in a release on Friday.

The guidelines allow expression of views including protest in the mixed zone, including when speaking to the media, while speaking to the media at the International Broadcasting Centre or the Main Media Centre (MMC); during press conferences in the venue or in the MMC, during interviews and at team meetings.

They are also allowed to express their opinion through traditional or digital media, social media channels on the field of play prior to the start of the competition. They can also protest during the introduction of the individual athlete or team, provided that the expression is consistent with the fundamental principles of Olympism and not targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organisations and/or their dignity and are not disruptive in nature.

These guidelines will help preserve the sanctity of the Field of Play, the ceremonies, the victory ceremonies and the Olympic Village.

Athletes who breach these rules on expression at the Tokyo Olympics could be stripped of medals and disqualified from the Games if the protest is deemed disruptive or against fundamental Olympic principles.

The International Olympic Committee has issued updated guidelines to competitors regarding Rule 50, which covers their rights to freedom of expression including gestures such as taking the knee.