The International Olympic Committee appears to have fully opened the door to gestures such as the taking of the knee for Black Lives Matter at this summer’s games in Tokyo, easing the rules after consulting thousands of athletes.
A new version of International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines, produced to provide “further clarity and guidance” to athletes in Tokyo this summer, gives stars the “opportunity to express their views” in areas including media zones and centers, at press conferences and on social media.
In a potentially telling section for competitors planning to repeat the kneeling gesture that has become prevalent across sports, athletes have been told that they can air their views on the field before the start of events or during their individual or team introductions.
While the taking of the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign has won high-profile backers, including the England football team during the current Euro 2020 finals, its critics have described it as a virtue-signaling political tool that is out of place in sporting arenas and achieves division rather than value.
The Olympics is many American athletes’ one opportunity to demonstrate during the anthem and grab some attention — especially in the sports that we don’t normally pay attention to.
— Dre Baldwin | #WorkOnYourGame (@DreAllDay) July 1, 2021
— Black King ✊🏾 (@KingADJames) July 3, 2021
The guidelines added that any expressions of views made by participants need to be consistent with the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.
That includes not being targeted “against people, countries, organisations and/or their dignity” and not being “disruptive” – such as taking place during another team’s anthem or introduction.
Those points could cause concern to observers who share similar views to Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who said that kneeling before matches was “incomprehensible” to his nation’s culture, declaring it a “provocation”.
Welcome to the wrong side of history. SMH pic.twitter.com/QeoX0eWBc6
— The1called.J (@J_Sanka) July 3, 2021
Worth remembering Britain's women's football team are playing in one of the first events of the Olympics. They've been taking the knee all season, and have been involved in the discussion about how important it is. Until now, taking the knee at the Games would have been punished
— Nancy Gillen (@Nancy_Gillen) June 25, 2021
“When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes,” stated the guidance.
“It should be recognized that any behaviour and/or expression that constitutes or signals discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence on any basis whatsoever is contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism.”
Disciplinary procedures could be enacted if the conditions in the guidelines are not met, with the IOC pledging to handle any cases “in full transparency”.
I respect professional athletes using their forum to demonstrate their displeasure. I can’t say I am wild about an Olympic athlete doing it. You’re on a country’s team. If you don’t want to represent the country…. 🤷♀️
I am suspect of these “goes viral” moments as inauthentic
— NotesInTheMargin 🇺🇸 (@NotesMargin) June 30, 2021
More than 3,500 athletes across gender-equal representation are said to have contributed to the shaping of the rule changes, representing 185 different National Olympic Committees and all 41 Olympic sports.
“The new guidelines are a result of our extensive consultation with the global athletes’ community,” said Kirsty Coventry, the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.
“While the guidelines offer new opportunities for athletes to express themselves prior to the competition, they preserve the competitions on the Field of Play, the ceremonies, the victory ceremonies and the Olympic Village. This was the wish of a big majority of athletes in our global consultation.”
The rescheduled showpiece is set to start on July 23.
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