In a statement released on Wednesday, the IOC said it had come to the decision to continue with the Rule 50 ban after a 10-month consultation process with over 3,500 athletes, who represent 185 different National Olympic Committees and all 41 Olympic Sports.
According to the survey: “A clear majority of athletes said that it is not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field of play (70% of respondents), at official ceremonies (70% of respondents) or on the podium (67% of respondents).”
“The goal of this wide outreach was to engage with athletes and hear their thoughts on existing and new opportunities to express their views at the Olympic Games as well as outside Games time,” Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commision, said.
“We want to amplify the voices of athletes, and find more ways to support the values of the Olympic Games and what sport stands for. This consultation was a very important process for us and is part of the ongoing dialogue with the athlete community. We are delighted that the IOC [Executive Board] fully supported our proposals.”
The study was carried out by a professional research agency and the IOC used the Swiss Center of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS), an organization with extensive experience in high-quality academic surveys, to ensure an “independent review of the whole process for the quantitative survey.”
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23.
Rule 50 states that: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The Rule strives to ensure that the focus at the Olympic Games remains on athletes’ performances, sport, unity and universality, according to the IOC.
Sanctions for athletes who violate Rule 50 will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Last month, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced that Team USA athletes would be permitted to hold up a fist, kneel, and wear garments promoting racial and social justice while taking part in all future US Olympic & Paralympic Trials events.
Despite the continued ban on protests, the IOC outlined a number of “recommendations” which outlined alternate ways athletes could express themselves at the Summer Games in Japan.
Included is highlighting “the importance of solidarity, unity and non-discrimination at the opening and closing ceremonies” as well as incorporating inclusive messaging around the Olympic Village and on athletes’ apparel.
“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,” the statement read.
“In such cases, the political neutrality of the Olympic Games is a way to protect athletes from political interference or exploitation.
“In conclusion, the quantitative and qualitative findings indicate that the majority of athletes want to protect the field of play, official ceremonies and podium.”