The Olympic Rings are seen in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters at sunset in Lausanne (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Centre Statement on IOC Athletes’ Commission Report on Rule 50

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board recently approved recommendations by the IOC Athletes’ Commission concerning its review of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter on athlete expression.
The Centre for Sport and Human Rights acknowledges the efforts made by the Athletes’ Commission to consult athletes in this process and we welcome recommendations such as those relating to increasing opportunities for athletes’ expression during the Olympic Games, including by highlighting the importance of solidarity and non-discrimination at opening and closing ceremonies.
We agree with the Commission that the right to freedom of expression as set out in international human rights standards must be exercised responsibly. In essence, this means it does not permit expression that incites hate or violence or that is intolerant of other individuals or groups. At the same time, it must be stressed that this right affords all individuals the ability to express their views openly and in a form of their choosing.
We acknowledge the concerns raised by a number of athlete associations about aspects of the Commission’s process and conclusions, including with respect to the athlete survey conducted as part of the Commission’s consultation process. The Centre feels it is important to emphasise that in the context of human rights, all positions, not just the majority, must be given voice, especially those of more marginalised or minority views.
We believe more reflection and development related to how ‘protests and demonstrations’ are characterised in the context of podium award presentations, on the field of play and during official ceremonies needs to be conducted as the impacts of these recommendations could adversely effect the ability of athletes to exercise their freedom of expression.
We recognise the challenges involved in constructively addressing these issues, and we remain committed to working with the IOC and all sport’s stakeholders as they continue efforts to fully embed respect for human rights throughout IOC activities and operations.

Image Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

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