Olympics officials are still negotiating a response to a U.S. podium protest.
The standoff over free speech between the International Olympic Committee and US Olympic officials continued on Monday, as the IOC pondered what to do if Americans refused to penalize an athlete for breaking rules limiting protests on the medal podium.
On Sunday night, Raven Saunders, an American shot putter, delivered the first political demonstration on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics when she raised her arms and crossed them in an X shape shortly after receiving her silver medal .
She made the gesture at the end of the ceremony, during a shoot for photographers after the medal ceremony and the Chinese national anthem played for the winner, Gong Lijiao.
As Saunders left, she told reporters her act was “for the oppressed.”
Mark Adams, the IOC’s chief spokesperson, said on Monday that the leaders of both organizations and World Athletics, the international athletics governing body, were in talks.
“We want to fully understand what’s going on with the issue and go from there,” Adams said.
Kate Hartman, chief spokesperson for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the organization’s leaders stressed to IOC officials that Saunders did not perform his demonstration during the medal presentation or the Chinese anthem.
“It’s important to us,” Hartman said.
In a statement released on Monday, the USOPC said it was still discussing what happened with the IOC and other groups.
In the words of the USOPC delegation, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders’ peaceful expression in favor of racial and social justice that occurred at the end of the ceremony was respectful of its competitors and did not violate our protest rules, ”the organization said in a statement.
The IOC and the US Olympic Committee have conflicting rules and views regarding the exercise of free speech during the Games, and even how sanctions should be imposed.
The IOC, which prohibits demonstrations on the podium or during competition, said Sunday evening that an athlete’s National Olympic Committee was required to pronounce any required sanctions. US officials have said they will not punish any athlete for exercising their right to free speech that does not express hatred.
Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the US Olympic Committee, said last week that international Olympic leaders “have authority and jurisdiction and a unique set of sanctions. We sit in a different seat.
If the IOC orders the Americans to punish an athlete and they refuse to do so, they would be violating the Olympic charter.
Also on Sunday, Race Imboden, an American fencer, stepped onto the podium at another location after the United States won the bronze medal in foil with an X circled on his hand. But Hartman said no one complained about the episode.
When asked what would happen next, Hartman said, “Now we wait.”
In the meantime, however, the American Olympic Committee behaves much differently from what the American Olympic leaders did in 1968 and 1972, when they acted quickly to punish black athletes who demonstrated on the podium or failed to behave. by IOC standards, forcing them to leave. Games.
World Athletics is also highly unlikely to discipline athletes as the federation has no rules against protests in its books. Sebastian Coe, the president of the federation, said this year that he was “reluctant to discourage athletes from expressing their views, and I feel that the current generation is more willing to speak up than some previous generations” .
U.S. officials are trying to root out the free speech problem before the Summer Games take place in Los Angeles in 2028.
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