No kneeling, no hand gestures: Athletes banned from making protest or political statements at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Athletes have been banned from making visible statements of protest while competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed.

The IOC’s published guidelines regarding athlete protest have detailed what athletes are not permitted to do while competing at the Games.

Under Rule 50 of the athlete guidelines, athletes are prohibited from making political statements akin to those made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, whose “Black Power” protest was an iconic image of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Chairwoman of the IOC’s Athletes Commission, Kirsty Coventry, said it was important to set the boundaries for athletes ahead of the games to avoid ambiguity.

“We needed clarity and they wanted clarity on the rules,” she said.

“The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes.”

Athletes who break the rules on protests will face a triple threat of discipline from the IOC, the governing body of their specific sport and from their national body.

Despite the stated rules, athletes are permitted to express political opinions during media obligations, team meetings or on social media.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the 2020 Games should be kept free of politics, and called on athletes and politicians to ensure that was the case.

“The mission of the Olympics is to unite and not to divide. We are the only event in the world that gets the entire world together in a peaceful competition,” he said.

“I ask them [politicians and athletes] to respect this mission of the Olympic Games and in order to accomplish this mission we must be politically neutral.

“Otherwise we would end up in this divisive and boycott situation. I ask them to respect this political neutrality by not using (the Olympics) as a stage for their political purposes.”

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will run from July 24 to August 9.

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