Any athletes who protest by raising a fist or taking a knee at the Tokyo Olympics will be risking punishment.

A survey conducted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) demonstrated that most international athletes are uncomfortable with the racial demonstration, prompting the IOC to take steps to discourage competitors from it.  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.” 

“That is also because of the majority of athletes we spoke to. That is what they are requesting for,” said IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chief Kirsty Coventry who appeared in an online presentation of the survey’s results.

The committee announced its adherence to the formerly proposed policy of sanctioning demonstrations in official venues after reviewing it due to criticisms. 

The “Rule 50” introduced by the IOC has been a topic of controversy worldwide. Athletes from America have started posting the BLM moves on the platform at the Olympics since 2016 in protest for “racial and social justice.” Yet, not all athletes approve the move, with those from around the world, including American sports players claiming it could manifest into protests that would undermine their Olympic experience. 

“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas,”  Rule 50 determines. However, when pressured, the committee said it would reconsider the rule as the moves are commonplace when the American national anthem plays. 

The IOC published a report which contains a survey conducted over the past 11 months to clarify the reason for its decision to implement Rule 50.

The result of the survey of more than 3,500 international athletes worldwide provided that a majority of international athletes are uncomfortable with the demonstrations and views expressed on the Olympic platform.

The survey found that 70% of the respondents agreed that it was inappropriate to see athletes demonstrate protest signs on the playing field or during the opening ceremony, with 67% voicing their objection to any protests at the podium.

“I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today,” said Coventry, referring to the BLM’s iconic poses that the U.S athletes would perform, reports Reuters. She also confirmed with the audience that both the BLM moves, which involve raising a fist or taking a knee, would result in athletes with punishment. 

The IOC’s report also indicates that Rule 50 may initially be controversial considering that other sports organizations facilitate social expression. However, for the reason that “there are significant difficulties that an organization as diverse and universal as the IOC would face in distinguishing between admissible and inadmissible causes,” the committee would aim for a neutral solution, “including from a human rights perspective, given the risk of politicizing the IOC and alienating countries or athletes.”

The Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23 and run through August 8 after being postponed last year due to the COVID pandemic.

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