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Olympic competition and podium no place for protests, say Australian athletes

The survey found that nearly 40 per cent of Australian athletes believed in self-expression depending on the circumstances, 19 per cent believed in self-expression in any circumstances and 41 per cent argued the Olympics were not a place for athletes to publicly express views.

In a reflection, however, of the difference of views particularly between generations, 10 per cent of respondents said they would consider protesting on the field of play or at the podium despite knowing there were consequences for such actions.

Australia's Peter Norman (left) joins American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium during the famous "Black Power" demonstration in 1968.

Australia’s Peter Norman (left) joins American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium during the famous “Black Power” demonstration in 1968.Credit:AP

“Non-discrimination is one of the pillars of the Olympic movement. We were interested in the balance between our athletes’ views on freedom of expression and their obligations to respect the rights of others,” Hooker said.

“That obligation is captured in the Athletes’ Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities and is reflected in the IOC’s Rule 50.2 which specifically states – ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’.”

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The survey also found very few Australian athletes understood the consequences of breaching Rule 50.

Hooker said, however, that current-day Australian athletes were far more supportive of the Olympics being a platform for self-expression than their predecessors.

“While just over 40 per cent of athletes more broadly felt there was no place for self-expression or protest at the Games, if you look at athletes from the 2010s, that figure of those against falls away to just 19 per cent,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the majority of that younger group felt opportunities in social media and media conferences were preferable to protest on the field of play or Olympic podium.”

Among the recommendations made to the IOC’s athletes commission is for athletes to have places to express themselves away from the field of play and the podium. There was also support for a moment of solidarity to be held at the opening and closing ceremonies, which has been proposed as an option in Tokyo.

The IOC athletes’ commission is consulting with athletes around the world on world amid fierce debate about whether the restrictions around protesting should be relaxed.

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