IOC chairman Thomas Bach does not want to allow political protests at the Olympic Games. The German fears that the sporting event will otherwise become “a marketplace for demonstrations”.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, calls to abolish Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter increased this year. It states that athletes are not allowed to make political statements at Olympic matches and awards.
Bach writes in a column in the British newspaper on Saturday The Guardian that he does not intend to abolish the rule in question. “The Olympic Games are first and foremost about sport. The athletes represent the values of physical excellence, solidarity and peace.”
“Athletes demonstrate this inclusiveness and mutual respect by remaining politically neutral,” says Bach. “The focus on the sport goes hand in hand with the freedom of expression the athletes have during the Games.”
The German points out in his column that sport has a connecting factor. “That role can only manifest itself if everyone respects each other and shows solidarity. If not, the Games will become a marketplace of all kinds of demonstrations and it will split the world rather than bring it together.”
‘Boycott in 1980 has yielded nothing’
Bach argues that the sport does not have great political strength and cites his own past as an athlete to support that thesis. In 1980, the then fencer was unable to defend his Olympic title because West Germany, like dozens of other countries, boycotted the Moscow Games.
“As head of the West German athletes committee, I was vehemently against the boycott because it harmed people who had nothing to do with it.
“It gives me no consolation that I was proved right afterwards. Nine years after the boycott, the Soviet army was still in Afghanistan. No political effect was achieved with the boycott and the athletes were the victims.”
At the upcoming Games in Tokyo, which have been postponed to the summer of 2021 due to the corona crisis, political protests are still taboo when it comes to Bach. “What I’m saying is that the Games are not about politics. The IOC is a non-governmental organization, which is strictly politically neutral at all times.
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