Olympic rule on podium demonstrations stays in place with international athlete support

Getty Images
0 Comments

A rule disallowing certain Olympic athlete demonstrations, including hand gestures and kneeling, on medal podiums, in the field of play and at Opening and Closing Ceremonies remains in place after a majority of 3,457 international athletes surveyed supported it.

The International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission recommended increasing opportunities for athlete expression at the Games while keeping the current rule restricting demonstrations from Olympic venues.

The recommendations were made after a survey of athletes from 185 National Olympic Committees, including the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and 41 Olympic sports.

The IOC Executive Board approved all six recommendations made by the commission. Most notably, ones regarding part of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Seventy percent of athletes surveyed said the field of play and ceremonies were not appropriate places for competitor demonstrations or protests. Sixty-seven percent said the podium was not appropriate.

Athletes can express their views in other ways during the Olympics, including outside the venues, in press conferences and mixed zones and on social media.

“Rule 50 does not aim to silence athletes or make them apolitical,” according to the athletes’ commission report. “The IOC appreciates that athletes may wish to be vocal or political about issues they feel strongly about. Rule 50 aims to protect the political, religious and racial neutrality of a few strictly defined locations (field of play, Olympic Village) and of a few strictly defined moments (Olympic medal ceremonies, Opening, Closing and other official Ceremonies) which form the core of the Olympic Games.

“Although the restriction imposed by Rule 50 may appear too sweeping, especially if compared to some sports organizations which allow expression in support of social (as opposed to political) causes, there are significant difficulties that an organization as diverse and universal as the IOC would face in distinguishing between admissible and inadmissible causes. For this reason, a blanket of neutrality is deemed an appropriate and proportionate solution, including from a human rights perspective, given the risk of politicizing the IOC and alienating countries or athletes.”

Since June, the commission spoke with athletes and National Olympic Committees to develop proposals on how Olympians can express themselves at the Games while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

Other approved recommendations included making available athlete apparel with proposed inclusive words: peace, respect, solidarity, inclusion and equality, and incorporating that messaging inside the Olympic Village; highlighting in ceremonies the importance of solidarity, unity and non-discrimination and changing the athletes’ oath read during the Opening Ceremony to include messaging on inclusion and non-discrimination.

Separately, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced in December that it will not sanction Team USA athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics “for peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice.”

Then in March, the USOPC announced that racial and social justice demonstrations that are respectful, including raising a fist or kneeling on a podium or start line, will be allowed at Olympic and Paralympic Trials events.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
Getty
0 Comments

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
0 Comments

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”