The International Olympic Committee has issued a fairly extraordinary edict that effectively outlaws political protests at this year’s Tokyo Olympic games, with the official reasoning being “sport is neutral.”

Yesterday the IOC published revised guidelines for athletes as we move into an Olympic year. Of particular note are the clarifications to the Olympic Charter Rule 50, which has stood since time immemorial and prohibits all forms of “demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda” within Olympic arenas.

In a three-page ruling, the IOC outlined exactly what kind of demonstration will attract sanctions at this year’s Tokyo Games, which includes taking a knee, making covert or explicit hand gestures, and refusing to stand on a medal dais due to a competitor’s presence.

All these acts now fall under the definition of acts of “divisive disruption” as far as the IOC is concerned, and acts committed during the games will face a three-pronged disciplinary process; one from the IOC itself, one from the governing body of their chosen sport, and one from their own nation’s Olympic committee.

The official document carries a fairly loaded “stick to sports” edict, stating that “it is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference. It further asserts that “the focus for the field of play and related ceremonies must be on celebrating athletes’ performance.”

This clarification effectively outlaws things like black American athletes kneeling in protest against police violence, or even Mack Horton refusing to stand next to Sun Yang on a medal platform, an act the Australian was formally cautioned for by FINA mid-last year.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics kicks off on Friday, July 24th.

Image: AAP