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22nd Apr 2021

Taking a knee to be banned at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics

Charlie Herbert

The ban was recommended by the IOC’s Athletes Commission

Competitors at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer are likely to not be allowed to take a knee before taking part in events. It’s after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved a recommendation from its Athletes’ Commission to limit the right to protest on the field of play.

The Telegraph reports that 3,547 athletes from 185 countries and 41 sports responded to a survey from the IOC asking them whether there should be a change to the committee’s Rule 50. This rule bans demonstrations of “political, religious or racial propaganda” on Olympic sites.

Of the 3,547 respondents, two thirds said that they didn’t feel that a change to this rule would be appropriate.

The chair of the Athletes’ Commission, Kirsty Coventry, said: “A very clear majority of athletes said that it’s not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play, at the official ceremonies, or on the podium, and so our recommendation is to preserve (those places) from any kind of protests and demonstrations or acts perceived as such.”

The recommendation will now be passed to the IOC’s legal affairs commission in order for them to consider the potential punishments for those who don’t follow this rule.

Coventry went on to say that the legal affairs commission are being asked to “come up with a proportionate range of different sanctions, so that everyone knows going into the Games what they can and can’t do.”

A spokesperson for the British Olympic Association said that they would be working with Team GB athletes to work out ways that they could express themselves without contravening the rules.

The spokesperson said, per the Telegraph: “We are appreciative of the broad, global consultation that took place through the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission and that British athletes were given the opportunity to engage through both the consultation and the IOC survey.

“We understand that the survey showed overwhelming global support for maintaining the existing rule about political protests whilst providing increased clarity for athletes and fostering new opportunities for expression elsewhere.

They added that whilst the British Olympic Association “strongly believe” that sport and politics should remain separate, they also “support the desire of athletes to be advocates of causes about which they feel strongly.”