No kneeling or raising fists: Olympic committee bans protests of all kinds at 2020 games

14 January 2020 - 12:03
By Unathi Nkanjeni
This file photo, taken in 2018, shows the construction site for the National Stadium, the venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee has banned protests of all kinds at the event.
Image: AFP This file photo, taken in 2018, shows the construction site for the National Stadium, the venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee has banned protests of all kinds at the event.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is banning protests of all kinds at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

The IOC released guidelines in which it outlined that political statements made during the games are not allowed.

According to the Rule 50 Guidelines: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The committee said the ban was put in place to stop athletes from using the platform to make any controversial statement or protest, as seen in the past. It is also to “respect” other athletes' moment of glory, and not to draw attention away from their special moments, as seen in the past.

The ban is also applicable to any other accredited person, including trainers, coaches and officials.

“As athletes, we are passionate about our sports and achieving our sporting performance goals.

“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 at the Olympic Games to make our point.”

The IOC also said protests could  “tarnish” the life’s work of athletes around the world, as conflicts “drive a wedge between individuals, groups and nations”.

“When an individual makes their grievances, however legitimate, more important than the feelings of their competitors and the competition itself, the unity and harmony as well as the celebration of sport and human accomplishment are diminished,” said the guideline.

Types of banned protests

According to the IOC, the type of protests that are banned include:

• Displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands.

• Gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.

• Refusal to follow the ceremonies' protocols.

Protests and demonstrations are not permitted on the field of play, in the Olympic village, during Olympic medal ceremonies and during the opening, closing and official ceremonies.

“Any protest or demonstration outside Olympic venues must obviously comply with local legislation wherever local law forbids such actions,” said the IOC.

The committee said athletes have the opportunity to express their views during press conferences and interviews, at team meetings and on social media or other platforms.

“If an athlete or participant is in breach of Rule 50 and the Olympic Charter, each incident will be evaluated by their respective National Olympic Committee, International Federation and the IOC, and disciplinary action will be taken on a case by case basis as necessary.”