The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that Rule 50 forbids any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” during ceremonies, including taking a knee for Black Lives Matter or raising a Black Power fist.
As more and more athletes are seen as politicising sports by signalling their sport for Black Lives Matter on the court or pitch, some heads of sporting organisations, including World Athletics’ president Sebastian Coe, have said that athletes should be allowed to express their racial and political beliefs during the Olympic Games.
However, Kirsty Coventry, who is the head of the Olympics Athletes’ Commission, said that the majority of athletes consulted about the ban on political expression supported it, and said they were against any partisan political protests on Olympic grounds.
“I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today,” said Coventry, who was herself an Olympic swimming champion for Zimbabwe.
When asked if athletes would be punished for political expressions such as taking a knee during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Coventry said “Yes, that is correct,” adding that this was due to a survey of 3,500 athletes, which had found that over 70% were opposed to political statements in sports.
“That is because of the majority of athletes we spoke to. That is what they are requesting for,” Coventry said.
The Tokyo Olympics, intended for last year, were delayed due to the covid-19 virus and restrictions. They are now set to begin on July 23rd 2021.