Jan 9, 2020 - Sports

Olympic Committee publishes protest guidelines for 2020 Tokyo Games

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee issued a set of guidelines on Thursday to strengthen a rule that bars athletes from certain forms of political protest at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

What they're saying... The Committee warns: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

  • Activism such as kneeling, political hand gestures and wearing or holding signs or armbands is not allowed at fields of play, in the Olympic Village, during medal or other official ceremonies.
  • But, but, but: So long as athletes follow local laws, they're permitted to express themselves at press conferences, in interviews, at team meetings and on digital and traditional media platforms.

The committee states that "disciplinary action will be taken on a case-by-case basis as necessary" for those who violate the guidelines.

Between the lines: Sporting events, including the Olympics, have a lengthy history of attracting political protests. In the U.S., former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice, sparking a national dialogue on the issue.

  • In 1968, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the medal stand at the Games in Mexico City, per the Washington Post.
  • Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa showed support for civil rights protestors in his home country by crossing his wrists at the finish line during the 2016 Olympic Games, the Washington Post notes.
  • American fencer Race Imboden and hammer-thrower Gwen Berry faced probation from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee last year over protesting during the national anthem.

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Why it matters: This is the first time Abe has made such a statement. The International Olympic Committee said in a statement Sunday it would "step up its scenario-planning" for the event and was in talks with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and Japanese authorities "to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement."

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Why it matters: Canada and Australia are the first teams to announce they won't go to the Games because of COVID-19 risks. Both countries have called for the event to be held in the northern summer of 2021.

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