Tokyo 2020: Don’t bring political protests

Published on January 2nd, 2020

In his New Year’s message, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has warned athletes against protesting in any form at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Here’s an excerpt from his message:

An Olympic Year is an important reminder that we can only send this strong message of unity in diversity to the world with solidarity. Universality at the Olympic Games is only possible if everyone can participate.

At the beginning of this Olympic Year, let me reiterate the unwavering commitment of the IOC to our Olympic Solidarity model, which benefits all athletes from all NOCs in the world. As the athletes of the world set their sights on Tokyo and beyond, they can rely on our support and solidarity.

Building on the great strength and stability of the Olympic Movement, we want all athletes to continue to benefit from the success of the Olympic Games, either directly or through their respective teams and sports.

We can only accomplish our mission to unite the world if the Olympic Games stand above and beyond any and all political differences. We can only achieve this global solidarity and true universality if the IOC and the Olympic Games are politically neutral.

The Olympic Games are always a global platform for the athletes and their sporting performances. They are not, and must never be, a platform to advance political or any other potentially divisive ends.

We stand firmly against the growing politicization of sport because only in this way can we accomplish our mission to unite the world in peaceful competition. As history has shown, such politicization of sport leads to no result and in the end just deepens existing divisions.

There were two protests in the space of 24 hours by American athletes at the 2019 Pan American Games, while Australia’s Mack Horton and Britain’s Duncan Scott refused to share the podium with China’s Sun Yang during the World Aquatics Championships.

The IOC’s Rule 50 states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

Fencer Race Imboden, an Olympic bronze medallist, knelt during the American national anthem and called for change in the United States, citing racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants and opposition to President Donald Trump. Hammer thrower Gwen Berry later staged her own protest, raising her right fist at the conclusion of her medal ceremony.

The stands taken by the American duo differed from the actions of Horton and Scott, who protested against Sun’s appearance at the World Championships because of his doping record.

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