3rd January 2020

Global Athlete statement in response to IOC President Thomas Bach’s New Year message

Global Athlete has taken note of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s New Year’s message warning athletes against any form of protests at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. President Bach also reiterated his opposition to the growing politicization of sport.

Let’s be clear, the Olympic Movement has already politicized sport. To mention a few instances; in PyeongChang the IOC promoted a unified South and North Korean team; the IOC has an observer seat around the United Nations Assembly; the IOC President regularly meets with Heads of States; the Olympic Movement notion of sport autonomy is overshowed by Heads of States also fulfilling roles as heads of National Olympic Committees and heads of IOC Commissions hold Ministerial positions. This ship has sailed; the IOC has already politicized sport.

Under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and sport rules should not have the ability to limit that right. The IOC does not compensate, nor do they employ the athletes to attend the Games. In fact, the IOC requires athletes to sign away their rights to attend the Olympic Games.

Athletes devote years of their lives to qualify for the Olympic Games. If athletes want to speak up – in which they respect others rights and freedoms detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – we should embrace their diverse opinions. Silencing athletes should never be tolerated and to threaten them with removal from the Olympic Games is another sign of the imbalance of power between sport leaders and athletes. Athletes need to stand together as a collective to ensure their rights are protected.

• This statement was originally published by Global Athlete on 3 January 2020 via Twitter. To access the original, click here. The New Year’s message from IOC President Thomas Bach is available here.

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