Tokyo, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- The president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, said Thursday athletes should be allowed to make symbolic gestures of protest during the Olympic Games.
Coe, a former middle-distance runner and two-time Olympic gold winner, has long been a vocal supporter of athletes’ right to protest social and political issues, despite the International Olympic Committee’s official stance against such protests.
“I have been very clear; if an athlete wishes to take a knee on a podium, then I am supportive of that,” Coe said during a media tour of the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. “Athletes are a part of the world and they want to reflect the world they live in. For me, that is perfectly acceptable.”
Coe’s comments come against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, a protest movement denouncing police brutality and demanding social justice for people of color that swept the United States and the rest of the world over the summer following several incidents of white police officers killing unarmed African Americans.
Several high profile players and teams, both in the United States and elsewhere, have been kneeling (“taking a knee”) or raising a fist in a symbolic act of protest.
The IOC says that “no kind of demonstrations or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
But in July, IOC president Thomas Bach said that the organisation would support athletes “explore different ways of how (they) can express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter”.
The IOC called the Games a “very powerful global demonstration against racism and for inclusivity.”
The event was originally due to be held in August this year, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coe said that despite the difficulties presented by Covid-19, he was “very impressed” with how preparations were progressing and pledged his support to the organizers amid the uncertainty around the pandemic.
“We don’t know for sure what will happen in the next few months,” Coe said. “There may have to be some adaptations, there may have to be some differences, but I’m absolutely convinced that even under those circumstances, it will still be a fantastic Olympic Games”. EFE-EPA