Politics and the Olympics


Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter is a clause prohibiting the expression of political opinions. It has been in practice for years by the IOC to ensure that no such act is repeated. It states that, "no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed in and above the stadia, venues and other competition areas which are considered as part of the Olympic sites. 

With the "Black Lives Matter" movement sweeping the sports circles of many countries (mainly Western countries) in recent years, the IOC has faced pressure to amend Rule 50. So the Athletes Committee under the IOC conducted a survey last year. The survey results showed that 70% of the interviewees considered it inappropriate to express political opinions on the sports court or at the opening/closing ceremony. Those who did not agree to express their political opinions on the podium were also as high as 67%. Based on the investigation, the International Olympic Committee insists that it has the right to punish athletes who express political views on the podium and arena. However, the latest guidelines clearly indicate that if athletes express their political opinions in official press conferences, "mixed areas" and media (including traditional media and new media), the IOC will not interfere. 

Due to the pressure of reviewing Rule 50 on the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-discrimination related words/messages such as "diversity" and "inclusiveness" should also be included in the oath of this year's Olympics. 

4 historical moment of the history of protests in Olympics 

1906: Peter O’Connor climb up the flagpole to wave Irish flag

At the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens, Irish track and field athlete Peter O’Connor carried out one of the first and most famous acts of political protest in Olympic history to distinguish himself as a Irishmen as well as the national identity of Irish as a country.

Peter O\'Connor competing in the 1906 Olympics.

@Peter O'Connor competing in the 1906 Olympics. IRISH NATIONAL ARCHIVE


1968: Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists with black gloves in the Black Power salute

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter run at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, engage in a victory stand protest against unfair treatment of black people in the United States. Their Australian co-medalist Peter Norman union with them by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter run at the 1968 Olympic Games, engage in a victory stand protest against unfair treatment of black people in the United States.

@Bettmann Archive

1968: Věra Čáslavská turns her head away from Soviet flag during medal ceremony

When Chaslavska won the Olympic gold medal in 1968, she was hunting by the Soviet Government. Because she once strongly opposed communism and the invasion of the Soviet Union, and she was signed on Ludvik Vaculik's 2000-word anti-communist protest declaration in the spring of 1968, just 2 months before the Olympic Game. Later, Chaslavska spent several weeks hiding in the mountain town of Šumperk and home trained herself at very limited resources, and only got permission to go to Mexico City at the last minute.
Czechoslovakian gymnast and seven-time Olympic Gold medallist Vera Caslavska competes on the uneven bars in 1968 in London, Great Britain.

Czechoslovakian gymnast and seven-time Olympic Gold medallist Vera Caslavska competes on the uneven bars in 1968 in London, Great Britain. @Don Morley/Getty Images

 

1980: President Carter announces American boycott of Olympics in Moscow

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter gave an ultimatum to the invaders. If the Soviet army does not withdraw from Afghanistan before midnight on February 20, 1980, the United States will fully boycott participation in the 1980 Olympic held in Moscow, but the Soviets believed that political color should not be brought into the Olympics. On March 21, 1980, President Carter announced that the United States would boycott the Olympic Games.

Countries that supported the United States and joined the boycott include Japan, West Germany, China, the Philippines, and Canada. Among them, China, Albania and Somalia are the three socialist countries that boycotted the Olympic Games. In addition, the United Kingdom and France support the boycott but allow their athletes to participate as individual athletes.

In the opening and closing ceremonies, athletes from some countries used Olympic flags instead of their national flags to enter the arena. 

In the flag-raising ceremony of the award ceremony, the

medallist replaced the national flag and national anthem with the Olympic flag and the permanent Olympic anthem. This has also led to the phenomenon of raising three Olympic Committee flags at the same time at some award ceremonies.

 

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References:

  1. https://www.thestandnews.com/sport/%E8%AA%B0%E8%A6%81%E6%B1%82%E5%A5%A7%https://theconversation.com/the-olympic-movement-claims-political-neutrality-in-reality-that-ideal-is-often-selectively-applied-164558E9%81%8B%E9%81%B8%E6%89%8B%E7%B0%BD%E6%89%BF%E8%AB%BE%E6%9B%B8-%E7%B0%A1%E4%BB%8B-%E5%A5%A7%E6%9E%97%E5%8C%B9%E5%85%8B%E6%86%B2%E7%AB%A0-%E7%AC%AC-50-%E6%A2%9D
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BszPhWZb6Vs
  3. https://qz.com/2025242/politics-are-coming-for-the-apolitical-olympics/
  4. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/olympics-are-political-ioc-ban-denies-reality-athletes-their-voice-ncna1117306
  5. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/ioc-athletes-commission-s-recommendations-on-rule-50-and-athlete-expression-at-the-olympic-games
  6. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/06/25/fact-check-olympic-athletes-barred-staging-protests-tokyo/5345416001/
  7. https://time.com/5764614/political-protests-olympics-ioc-ban/

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