'Hypocrites' claim as podium protests banned at Tokyo, Beijing Olympics after poll

Lausanne (AFP) –


Athletes will be banned from protesting on podiums and the field of play at the Tokyo Olympics and Beijing Winter Games after recommendations from the athletes' commission, the IOC said on Thursday.

More than two-thirds of 3,547 athletes polled said it is "not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views" on the victory podium, field of play or at official ceremonies, the International Olympic Committee said.

The recommendation, one of several adopted by the IOC executive board, follows calls to relax Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" at Olympic sites.

Any repeat of Tommie Smith and John Carlos's black power salute at the Mexico 1968 Games, one of the most enduring Olympic images, could now face punishment, although possible sanctions are yet to be determined.

"The majority of participating athletes did not think it is appropriate for athletes to express individual views during the opening ceremony, on the podium nor on the field of play," an IOC statement said.

"The respondents were most likely to believe it appropriate for athletes to demonstrate or express their individual views in the media, in press conferences and in the mixed zones."

The decision met with widespread criticism on Thursday.

"IOC upheld Rule 50 which bans among other things, athletes demonstrating even for peace and unity on the podium," tweeted former runner Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medallist.

"Citing 70% of athletes polled supported this. Taking the 70% claim at face value, I wonder what percent of those polled have been marginalized and targeted for hate."

American hammer thrower Gwen Berry, who staged a raised-fist protest on the podium at the 2019 Pan-American Games in Peru, was even more damning.

"The IOC are hypocrites who continue to silence athletes for capital gain," tweeted Berry.

"Again, they are on the wrong side of history. I encourage all athletes to STAND in their power and do what they feel is right!"

Among other athletes commission recommendations, the Olympic oath will be adapted to pledge inclusion and non-discrimination, and clothing with words such as "peace", "solidarity" and "equality" will be given to athletes at the Games.

The decision to bar demonstrations could meet opposition given the widespread "take a knee" and raised-fist protests in several sports in support of the Black Lives Matters movement.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee has already promised not to sanction American athletes for "respectful" demonstrations in support of racial and social justice at the Tokyo Games.

China, which will host the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, is facing scrutiny and boycott calls over several issues including the mass internment and other repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the clampdown on freedoms in Hong Kong.