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IOC Announces Athletes Will Face Punishment for Protesting at Tokyo Olympics

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 21, 2021

People walk past the Olympic rings in Tokyo Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. Pressure is building on Japanese organizers and the IOC to explain exactly how they plan to hold the Tokyo Olympics in the midst of a pandemic. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

The International Olympic Committee announced that athletes who protest at the Tokyo Summer Olympics will be subject to punishment.

Per the Associated Press, the IOC claimed it sent out a survey soliciting opinions from more than 3,500 athletes regarding demonstrations at the Games. The IOC said that 70 percent of the athletes believed it was "not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views," and 67 percent of responders said that they did not approve of any form or protest on the medal stand.

It's unclear what punishments athletes would face at this time. Per Kirsty Coventry, a representative for athletes on the IOC board, a "proportionate" range of punishments would be enacted.

The decision runs counter to one made by the USOPC (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee), which declared that protests would be allowed at U.S. Olympic trials, per Reuters, who added: "Athletes will also be allowed to wear a hat or mask with messages such as 'Black Lives Matter' or 'equality' or 'justice' and use their voices outside trials venues in other forums such as social media and the press."

However, at the Olympics, all athletes will be required to abide by Rule 50 of the IOC's guidelines: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

An explanation for the edict can be found via this link. Part of the reasoning for the rule is explained below:

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"We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world. This is why it is important, on both a personal and a global level, that we keep the venues, the Olympic Village and the podium neutral and free from any form of political, religious or ethnic demonstrations."

The Olympics, which were delayed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled to begin with the opening ceremony on July 23.