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Seb Coe: Give athletes the right to protest at Tokyo 2020

·2-min read
Coe shook off conflict of interest concerns around his links to Japanese marketing agency Dentsu to gain IOC election
Coe shook off conflict of interest concerns around his links to Japanese marketing agency Dentsu to gain IOC election

Seb Coe turned the screw on Olympic officials to allow athletes to protest on the podium at Tokyo 2020, writes Tom Harle.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Coe shares the view of the British Olympic Association - who he chaired from 2012 to 2016 - that athletes should be allowed to take a knee at next summer’s Games.

"I've been very clear that if an athlete chooses to take the knee on a podium then I'm supportive of that," said Coe, reiterating a view he first shared in July to reporters on a visit to Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

"Athletes are a part of the world and they want to reflect the world they live in.

"For me, that part is perfectly acceptable as long as it is done with respect — complete respect— for other competitors, which I think most athletes properly understand."

Coe is the IOC’s newest-elected member, joining the Session in July, and his views clash with those of Richard Pound, its longest-serving trustee.

Pound says it would be ‘inarticulate’ for athletes to demonstrate on the podium next year and fellow Movement icon and arch-marketer Michael Payne this week urged caution on changes to the rule.

The Rule 50 debate continues and this week Athleten Deutschland have labelled current restrictions 'overreaching', calling for revisions to the ruling.

The German athlete body say the Olympic Charter should contain a specific commitment to human rights and that a clear sanctioning practice must be outlined.

This stance is at odds with the results of a survey conducted by the German Olympic Sports Confederation, in which more than half of respondents agreed with current restrictions.

Coe, who sits on the Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Olympics, echoed IOC President Thomas Bach's positivity around the postponed Games.

"We don’t know what will happen in the next few months," Coe said. "We are absolutely committed to work with the organizing committee for the delivery of a fantastic Games.

"There may have to be some adaptations. There may need to be some differences. But I’m absolutely convinced that even under those circumstances they will still be a fantastic Games."

Meanwhile, there was sad news in the athletics world as Coe's former coach George Gandy, who coached him to three world records, died aged 80 after a heart attack.

Sportsbeat 2020