Every second year, hundreds of athletes participate in and millions of people watch the Summer/Winter Olympics. These events have a major role in many people’s lives and are often closely related to other issues in the world, through advertisements, sponsorships, and especially athlete’s actions. This month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision to ban political protests by the athletes, beginning this year at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
An article posted by Oren Weisfeld (2020) on TorontoNow explains that this new regulation has been implemented in order to help keep the Olympics apolitical. The IOC says that “It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference.” As evident by the examples provided by Weisfield (2020), critics have argued that the IOC has only made this decision so that they can control the relationship between sports and politics. The research by Jules Boykoff provides a clear overview of the history of protests at the Olympics, the meaning of these protests, and the role of the IOC. Overall he found that the IOC has a strong “aversion to mixing protests and sports” (Boykoff, 2017), which is consistent with this decision by the IOC to completely ban political protests by athletes at all future Olympics.
I believe that this decision is likely to have a significant impact on the upcoming Summer Olympics. As evident from past Olympics there have been many major political protests at events associated with the Olympics. The athletes participating generally have a strong network of people following them, therefore, what they say and do is likely to be internalized by their fans. For instance, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are not set to start until July 24th, but many athletes have already begun to speak out about this new regulation , including Megan Rapinoe, the star of the United States women’s national soccer team.
Overall, the impact of this decision cannot be fully understood until the Olympics, to see if or how the athletes react to this new regulation. With increasing political tensions over the last last few years, leading to actions such as athletes kneeling during anthems, it will be interesting to see what is or is not said/done at the Olympics. As mentioned previously, at past events it has been common for athletes to make a statement at events such as these due to the large audience and some athletes have already spoken out about this new regulation, therefore I believe it is likely there will still be some form of protesting present at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.