These Are The Latest Bans For Tokyo 2020

Be cauttious

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Protests symbols
Tokyo has banned protests symbols

If you happen to be an Olympic athlete, the International Olympic Committee doesn’t want you taking a knee at the Tokyo summer games. 

Or using hand gestures with a political meaning. Or displaying any political messaging on signs. 

On Thursday, the IOC released athlete guidelines outlining what protest actions Olympians can and can’t take at the 2020 Tokyo Games, which start in July. 

Tokyo 2020 banner
Tokyo 2020 banner

The guidelines, developed so that athletes can participate in the games “without any divisive disruption,” prohibit some forms of political protest and demonstration, such as “displaying any political messaging, including signs or armbands,” and “gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.” They also outlaw refusal to follow any Olympic Ceremonies protocol.  

In the introduction to the document, the IOC stated: “We believe that the example we set by competing with the world’s best while living in harmony in the Olympic Village is a uniquely positive message to send to an increasingly divided world. This is why 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.” 

The guidelines extend to all Olympic venues, which includes medal ceremonies, the Olympic Village, the field of play, and opening and closing ceremonies. 

Protest Symbol
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But the Olympics are no stranger to symbolic protest. Had the announced guidelines been in effect in 1968, for instance, the iconic raised fists of American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith would have been prohibited. 

And just last summer, American fencer Race Imboden and hammer-thrower Gwen Berry were each given 12 months probation after staging protests at medal ceremonies for the Pan American Games. 

Kneeling also denied

Imboden, in a move similar to that of Colin Kaepernick, kneeled, while Berry, like Carlos and Smith, raised her fist in the air. 

Sportsman bending his knee as a protest symbol
Sportsman bending his knee as a protest symbol

Following Imboden and Berry’s protests, the head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee wrote to the two athletes, in letters obtained by the Associated Press, saying: “It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient.” 

Athletes who break the protest rules at the Tokyo Games will be evaluated by the IOC, and other involved bodies, on a case-by-case basis. 

Will the rules deter everyone, though? It remains to be seen. 

Imboden, writing in the Washington Post four days after his kneel at the award podium, said, “I didn’t speak up to promote myself. I spoke up, I hope, for the same reasons that athletes who’ve come before me did. I want my country to change.”  

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