The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently published Rule 50, which bans all political protest, before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Rule 50, as defined in a statement by the IOC Athletes Commission, directly states in the preamble that “the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the IOC are fully supportive of freedom of expression.” Then, it contradicts itself by stating, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
It goes on to provide examples of what would qualify as a protest, which includes displaying any political signs or armbands, as well as any gestures of a political nature like kneeling. Lastly, Rule 50 states that the refusal to follow ceremonial protocol is a form of protest.
Many people took to social media to proclaim their disapproval for the new, seemingly partisan, rule.
Among these people are past medalists who took a stand for change on an Olympic podium. Two, in particular, were stripped of their medals because they chose to represent their community shamelessly in front of the whole world.
These two brave men, former Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, took a stand during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, as described in an online History article. Smith and Carlos were forced to return their medals for raising their black-gloved fists in the air while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing and for wearing necklaces made of black beads representing the African Americans who died from racially motivated attacks.
The IOC seems to be condemning the progress of the past, and rather than allowing athletes to represent their values and respective communities, is forcing them to stay silent and simply accept the honor of being part of the Olympic Games.
An international event like the Olympics is the single best place for a person to protest for change. It is direct access to the entire globe and would spark important discussions about bettering the society we coexist in.
In a 2020 interview with The Nation, John Carlos responded to the new Olympics political protest ban. He stated the new rule is nonsense and that no person should be forced to “sacrifice their humanity to win a medal.” He also asserted that the silencing of people from a large organization like the Olympics is political.
This is something that should be taken into consideration.
Especially with the world being more divided than ever, it’s cruel to impose a rule on these individuals, which takes away their ability to make an impact beyond their country’s borders.
For example, professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe’s act of speaking out about equal pay after the United States women’s national soccer team World Cup win would spark tons of conversation if it were to be broadcast during the Olympics. Granted, the majority of the world watches soccer avidly. Nonetheless, the subject still has the potential to make even more of an impact during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
By demanding world-class athletes remain silent, the Olympics are defending a world of denial by refusing to allow positive change.
All of this is because the IOC is afraid of conflict.
Perhaps this shows exactly how much the world hasn’t changed since the 1960s and beyond. In order to live in a better world, people must stop convincing themselves that the world is just fine and dandy.
The Olympics is the perfect stage for change that could set off a chain reaction on a global scale. To take away the ability to stand in the spotlight for good is to comply with all the injustice in our society.