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Volume 26 No. 209
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IOC Adopts Strict Guidelines For Political Statements In Tokyo

Kneeling and politically-motivated hand gestures will be prohibited at this summer's Games
Photo: getty images
Kneeling and politically-motivated hand gestures will be prohibited at this summer's Games
Photo: getty images
Kneeling and politically-motivated hand gestures will be prohibited at this summer's Games
Photo: getty images

The IOC has "settled on strict -- and specific -- guidelines for the types of actions, gestures and statements" competitors at the Tokyo Games will be "permitted to make," according to Tariq Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. There will be "no kneeling," and "no politically motivated hand gestures." There also will be "no political messages on signs or armbands," and "absolutely no disruptions of medals ceremonies." The IOC's "challenge was to balance growing demands from athletes to be able to speak out on issues with ensuring the Games pass without sparking diplomatic incidents." Many of the guidelines "merely codify existing rules," but Rule 50, until now, was "ambiguous about what constituted a political display." The guidelines also seek to "clarify the places" where athletes are "free to express themselves." Those include "interviews and news conferences, including those conducted on the grounds of the Games, and through digital and traditional media outlets." The IOC said that potential violations of the new guidelines "would be evaluated by an athlete's national Olympic committee, the international federation for the sport involved, and the IOC," adding that disciplinary action will be "taken on a case-by-case basis 'as necessary.'" Last August, the USOC disciplined two athletes for incidents that took place on the medals podium at the Pan American Games in Peru (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10).

SPEAKING OUT: U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry, one of the two American athletes involved in the Pan American Games incident, called the updated guidelines a "form of control," adding it is "kind of like silencing us at the biggest moments of our lives." YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell noted Berry "understands why the rules are in place," but she still "doesn't agree with them." Berry: "We sacrifice for something for four years, and we're at our highest moment. We should be able to say whatever we want to say, do whatever we have to do -- for our brand, our culture, the people who support us, the countries that support us, (everything). We shouldn't be silenced." When Berry's raised fist in Peru drew a formal reprimand, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland contacted her, writing the NGB "want(ed) to be part of finding more robust opportunities for athletes to use their voices in a meaningful way." But Bushnell noted Berry "does not know if any acceptable solutions have been discussed." Berry said that the USOC has "not consulted with her" since Hirshland wrote to her five months ago (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9).

CALL IT WHAT IT IS: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes for changing the guidelines, the IOC "gets a gold medal in hypocrisy." IOC leaders, President Thomas Bach "in particular, have crossed that supposed bright line separating the Olympics from politics so often" that it is "no longer visible." There is the IOC's observer status with the UN General Assembly, as well as the "frequent hobnobbing with leaders of various countries," and the "ongoing kowtowing to Russia." Armour: "The truth is, it's not the mixing of politics and sports that Bach and the IOC don't like. It's the mixing of politics they don't like with sports" (USA TODAY, 1/10).

40 IN FOCUS: The AP's Graham Dunbar noted a meeting Thursday between the IOC Executive Board and Athletes' Commission also "discussed the charter's Rule 40, which strictly limits" athletes' abilities to promote their sponsors during official Olympic Games periods. Last year, German athletes working outside the IOC system "won concessions" in a ruling that has led to Olympic bodies in the U.S., Australia and Canada to "offer a better deal to their athletes." In the German case, a federal cartel agency "sided against the IOC's argument that retaining exclusive rights for its top-tier sponsors protected the value of deals that help fund sports and athletes globally." Still, IOC Athletes' Commission Chair Kirsty Coventry said that the IOC panel "had 'an open door policy' and welcomed approaches from independent athlete groups who wanted to challenge the system" (AP, 1/9).