International swimming federation bans podium protests from Tokyo Games

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The international federation for water sports is banning podium protests at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

While athletes can participate in self-expression at the Games, including at press conferences or in private communications with the media, they cannot do so during events or at the podium, according to a statement released on Wednesday by the Switzerland-based Fédération Internationale De Natation (FINA), which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

All “political, religious or discriminatory statements during the medal ceremonies and on the medal podiums will also be prohibited,” the statement read.

“Consistent with FINA’s practice at all of its competitions, based on the FINA Code of Conduct, any political, religious or discriminatory statement or behavior will remain strictly prohibited on the field of play, starting when the athlete leaves the call room or similar,” the federation said on Wednesday.

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Although FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said he respects an athlete’s “right to free speech,” they should do so in a way that honors “the greater whole, not the individual.”

“FINA fully supports an athlete’s right to free speech. It is a fundamental aspect of democracy, and such voice should not be suppressed within the bounds of respect and dignity. Our athletes’ voices matter and should be heard,” Musallam said.

“Athletes have the right to the privacy of the moment, to remain free of unnecessary distraction from the competition and preparation, with the pool deck remaining a sanctity for sport and nothing else. The pool deck is and must always remain a place of friendship and respect for the greater whole, not the individual,” he added.

The wide range of opportunities for athletes to express themselves at the Olympic Games will include:

  • In the mixed zones, including when speaking to the media
  • In the International Broadcast Centre or the Main Media Centre, including when speaking to the media
  • During press conferences in the venue or the MMC
  • During interviews
  • At team meetings, subject to National Olympic Committee conditions
  • In traditional or digital media
  • Through social media channels, consistent with IOC and NOC guidelines 

FINA’s announcement comes after the IOC initially barred political protests from the 2020 Olympics.

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“The IOC AC is very concerned about the risk of politicization of the athletes and the risk that athletes may be put under external pressure,” the IOC said in an April statement. “It is important to protect athletes from the potential consequences of being placed in a position where they may be forced to take a public position on a particular domestic or international issue, regardless of their beliefs.”

Political protests at the Games have been a controversial issue since Team USA hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back to the American flag while the national anthem played during a U.S. Olympic track and field qualifier last month.





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