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Very Political and NOT At All Neutral – Ban on Freedom of Speech at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

You won’t be seeing an athlete bending the knee or standing up for what they believe this time, because the IOC issued a ban on freedom of speech for the 2020 Olympics held in Beijing. According to the new three-page document explaining Rule 50, Athletes are not allowed to make political hand gestures, wear armbands or hold signs which may show their protest/inclination towards a political cause.

And while on the surface this may seem like an initiative to keep “sports and politics apart” – in reality, this ban is not only political but dwells in hypocrisy, to say the least. It reinforces the politics of people in power by silencing voices against them. 

IOC recognized the power of freedom of speech that athletes have and is now taking that power away from them. 

They need to be reminded that their stance on apoliticism is in fact very political. 

Let’s take a look at the history of the Olympics. The 1936 Summer Olympics were held in leveraging the fact that Hitler and the Nazis were gaining power and these games were used against the Jews by putting forth an “Aryans-only” policy within a German sports organization.  Not only that, for two years, Juan Antonio Samaranch – a crucial element for the Franco regime in Spain – remained IOC’s president. You can check out the complete article about this here.

Where was their stance to remain “neutral” during those times?  They in fact we’re on the wrong side of history!

Why would you stop athletes from showcasing their freedom of speech on the biggest platform in 2020?

Is it to keep a threat at bay?

To avoid someone actually speaking the truth on the current mess our political affairs are in?

What happened to freedom of speech?

In the past athletes have taken a stand for human rights, or protested against political agendas for their home country. The three most prominent John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Peter Norman paid a very steep price for standing in solidarity for human rights. 

Even so, the IOC has no right to completely, directly ban athletes’ freedom of speech. At least they had the liberty to speak for themselves (even if it meant dealing with huge consequences later). These figures have however remained historic for their brave gestures. 

According to the Japan Times, athletes who break the rules will face disciplinary actions from their respective National Olympic Committee. 

The truth is, the IOC has made it clear that the Olympics are in fact, very political. The ban itself provokes the question – who are they standing for if not against? 

Why silence the voices of athletes on such a crucial platform when global politics have taken such a harsh turn? Silence is one form of injustice. Neutrality is favoring one instead of the other. 

The IOC  ban negates Rule 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

I beg to question the inverted policy of Rule 50 as it directly opposes the former. Why is this need for silencing freedom of speech more applicable now than ever before? We never saw this instance occur throughout history. 

And yet, it is happening now.

It proves the selective agenda of the IOC  which offers athletes freedom of speech at times when it is convenient. Not when they need it the most.

I believe everyone should have the right to exercise their freedom of speech. There is no debate. No matter what “politically correct” reasons you come up with, the fact that I have to write this today is in itself a complete breach of freedom of expression. And I’m curious to what extent these bans will be imposed. 

We are already fighting the blackouts in Kashmir. The Chinese government has done nothing but powered their hold on Uighur Muslims. And our President is firing one hysterical tweet after another invoking mass racial inequality across the country. Hate crimes are taking a toll on the wellbeing of Jews, Muslims, and other minorities. 

We don’t need to silence voices. 

We need to amplify them!

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