It would be ‘inarticulate’ for athletes to take a knee on the podium at Tokyo 2020, according to IOC doyen Richard Pound, writes Tom Harle.
The IOC’s Rule 50 outlaws ‘any kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda’ in competition areas or on the medal podium.
A consultation with the IOC athletes commission is ongoing but as usual IOC’s longest-serving member couldn’t resist having his say on the issue, brought into focus by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think athletes who start to think about these things get it,’’ Pound told Around The Rings.
“Your right to protest and draw attention to social issues is not abrogated.
“It just means you have to wait five minutes until the end of the ceremony and go to the press conference and say whatever you want.
“If somebody takes a knee, you’ll never know if you’re watching on TV or from the stands if it’s actually about racial discrimination or about fluoride in the water. It’s inarticulate.
“All the oxygen is being taken up by the George Floyd incident these days.
“There’s all kinds of different discrimination that doesn’t result from police brutality. There’s a different dynamic.
“There’s a time and a place for everything. You have all kinds of human rights and you don’t go shouting about those things at a church service or at a funeral.
“If you’re asked to wait five or 10 minutes out of respect for your fellow athletes, your human rights really are not infringed.”
The response of athletes thus far has been mixed. In June a group of American athletes on the USOPC advisory council, led by John Carlos, wrote to the IOC calling for Rule 50’s abolition.
Team GB chef de mission Mark England has backed British athletes unequivocally should they desire to protest next summer.
But 80% of nearly 500 respondents to a survey conducted by the Australian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission believed podium protests would detract from the Games.
67% of Irish athletes surveyed by the Olympic Federation of Ireland were against unrestricted protest, although 62% were in favour of some form of protest being permitted.
When probed at a press conference yesterday, IOC President Thomas Bach refused to be drawn on ongoing consultations with Athletes Commissions which proceed until October.
An online survey will be conducted with the ‘global athlete community’ in October, analysis will follow in November before a presentation to the IOC Executive Board in December. Findings of the consultation will be made public in January.
Pound believes Bach’s opening ceremony speech might be the best place to mark the moment.
“He could say something to the effect of, ‘We’re here celebrating this miracle in this little bubble for two weeks," Pound said.
“‘We’re very conscious that not all discrimination has been solved around the world. We call on the governments and people around the world to commit to ending discrimination.’
“That I think would be appropriate.”