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Athlete poll supports Rule 50, IOC to punish protestors at Tokyo Olympics

Of the 3,500 athletes polled by the IOC, 70 per cent are against permitting athlete protests at the Games

Photo by: IOC/Christophe Moratal

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced it will continue to stand by Rule 50 and punish any athletes who protest at the upcoming Tokyo Games. The decision comes after a poll of more than 3,500 athletes from 185 countries found that the vast majority of Olympians are against activism at the Games, with 67 per cent of respondents supporting a total ban on podium protests

What is Rule 50?

As stated in the Rule 50 Guidelines, the IOC finds that “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.” Many athletes have spoken out against Rule 50, especially in the past year following the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing racial unrest that swept the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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As it turns out, though, the IOC poll has found that more athletes are against podium protests, they just might not be speaking about the issue as loudly as the individuals who are against Rule 50. The IOC has not said what type of punishment an athlete will receive for protesting, but in the Rule 50 Guidelines, it’s stated that not all disciplinary action will be the same, and it will be doled out on a “case-by-case basis as necessary.” 

No protests 

The IOC is the main organization in charge at the Games, but other federations, like World Athletics, have said they support athlete protests. The U.S. Olympic Committee has also spoken up regarding Rule 50, noting that it will not punish any American athletes who choose to protest at the Games. Of course, these organizations cannot stop the IOC from punishing athletes, and instead they can only refuse to discipline individuals further. 

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While the IOC will hold steady with its ban on protests, Kirsty Coventry, the IOC Athletes Commission chair, told The Guardian that there will be “increased opportunities for athletes expression during the Games.” Coventry didn’t dive into this too much, but she said there will be a “moment of solidarity against discrimination” at the opening ceremonies in Tokyo, which 48 per cent of respondents in the IOC poll said was “important.” The Tokyo Games are set to start on July 23 and run until August 8.