What is the History of the Olympics Protest Rule?

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The simple act of taking the knee, it felt very reminiscent of when it took place on the opening night on the Olympic football pitches in Japan.

Players from the U.S., Sweden, Chile, Britain and New Zealand women’s teams went to their knees before their games on Wednesday night, with anti-racist gestures never seen before at the Olympics. They were the first of these types of demonstrations during my three-week stay in Tokyo.

The Olympic rule banning such demonstrations in sports has been hotly debated and competed for decades, and in the last two years those issues have reached a critical point. The result is changes in the rules and the willingness of some sports companies to implement them.

How have demonstrations and demonstrations in sports developed over the years? Here is a brief solution.


One against the Olympic Games demonstrations near the Komasawa Olympic Park in Tokyo. (Abi)

The Olympics have always been designed to unite nations to celebrate sports and international unity as a non-political organization. One of the best recognized signs of that non-political ideal is to ban campaigning in sports. Rule 50 of the IOC Charter states: No demonstration or political, religious or ethnic campaign is permitted on any Olympic site, venue or other area.


Demonstrator Kumiko Sudo speaks at a rally against hosting the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. (Abi)

Before being officially enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the regime’s ambitions were particularly put to the test. American sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos raise black-glove fists when their national anthem is played at the 200-meter medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Not only were they eventually sent home for ignoring the ban on demonstrations, but the end was the exclusion from the Olympic movement for almost half a century. It was not until 2016 that the US Olympic team invited them to the official event. Until 2019 it did not register them in its famous hall.


People gather for a rally in Tokyo’s Shinjuku shopping district. (Abi)

The basic structure of Rule 50 was written in the 1975 Olympic Charter. At the time, it was actually part of Rule 55, and it said: All forms of demonstration or campaign, political, religious or racial, in the Olympic areas are prohibited. It will be refined and rewritten over the years. Just a few months ago, in the face of growing pressure to remove the rule, the IOC made its latest changes, saying it would allow some demonstrations, but just before the competitions began, the medals were not on stage. The IOC has also expressed interest in international organizations that run individual games on how and how to enforce sanctions.


Protesters against the Tokyo Olympics gather outside the Japan State Guest House Agasaka Palace in Tokyo (AB).

Half a world away from Tokyo, in Lima, Peru, this fate became a sticky point two summers ago. Gwen Perry, an American hammer thrower at medals at the Pan-American Games, raised his fist and took a knee with American fencer Race Impot. They both received letters from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees, which were put on probation throughout the year, sending a message to other American athletes who thought of doing something similar, as the Tokyo Games were scheduled for next year. The corona virus infection pushed the games back 12 months, and the assassination of George Floyd in the United States and the action that followed prompted a full review of the regime. The USOPC decided not to allow athletes who violated Rule 50, thus putting pressure on the IOC, which relied on national committees to enforce its rules on sports.


People protest against the Olympics near the Komasawa Olympic Park in Tokyo. (Abi)

When the USOBC underwent its review, the IOC also worked with its Athletes Commission to review the rule. The Commission sent out a global survey, which saw widespread support for the rule as it was written. Following that path, the IOC chose to keep this rule largely intact. This created an opportunity for tension throughout the Games in Tokyo, where in addition to the football teams, Perry and American sprinter Nova Liles telegraphed for themselves. Liles wore a black glove and raised his fist in the starting line at the Olympics, while Perry stepped away from the flag while playing the national anthem.

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