Story at a glance

  • The International Olympic Committee on Friday updated its ruling on athlete protests at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, appearing to give more leeway for competitors to peacefully express political views at games venues.
  • Previously, the committee upheld Rule 50, which states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
  • Rule 50.2 allows athletes to engage in political expression in a variety of capacities, including on the field prior to the beginning of the competition.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday updated its ruling on athlete protests at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, appearing to give more leeway for competitors to peacefully express political views at games venues. 

Rule 50.2 allows athletes to engage in political expression in a variety of capacities, including on the field prior to the beginning of the competition. Previously, the committee upheld Rule 50, which states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The IOC ruled in April that violations could be punished. 

Although the update appears to relax the previous rule, both versions of the rule bar any protest on the podium. The rule further states that “when expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes.”

“It should be recognized that any behavior and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” the rule continues. 


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Athletes' political protests and expression, according to the rule, will additionally be strictly prohibited in the Olympic Village and during opening and closing ceremonies. 

Kirsty Coventry, the IOC's Athletes' Commission chief and former Olympic champion from Zimbabwe, led a review of Rule 50 and determined 70 percent of more than 3,500 athletes were opposed to protest at games’ venues. 

Coventry said at the time that she felt political messaging would detract from the spirit of the games. 

"I would not want something to distract from my competition and take away from that. That is how I still feel today," Coventry said.

The IOC, however, made concessions to the rule, including one which would allow athletes to wear apparel with the words such as “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality,” printed on the item, The Associated Press reported. 

The updated rule applies to the Tokyo Games, which are set to begin July 23. 


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Published on Jul 02, 2021