Athletes will not be permitted to kneel in protest, use hand gestures or display any political messages at this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said.
The IOC published new guidelines for the Olympic Charter’s Rule 50 on Thursday specifying which types of athlete protests will not be allowed at the 2020 Summer Games, which will run from July 24 to August 9 in the Japanese capital.
Under Rule 50, athletes are prohibited from taking a political stand in the field of play, like the raised fists by American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games.
“We needed clarity and they wanted clarity on the rules,” said Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, which oversaw the new three-page document.
“The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes.”
Participants who break protest rules face three rounds of disciplinary action – by the IOC, a sport’s governing body, and a national Olympic body.
They can still express political opinions in official media settings, team meetings or on social media accounts.
“It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference,” the IOC document states, urging “the focus for the field of play and related ceremonies must be on celebrating athletes’ performance”.
The new guidelines came after two US athletes were reprimanded by the US Olympic Committee for medal podium protests at the Pan-American Games in August in Lima, Peru.
Fencer Race Imboden kneeled and hammer thrower Gwen Berry raised a fist in protest. Both were put on probation for 12 months, a period that covers the Tokyo Olympics.
Other protests in 2019 included swimmers from Australia and Britain refusing to join world championship gold medallist Sun Yang on the podium because the Chinese star has been implicated in doping violations.