Dina Asher-Smith says ‘protest a human right’ in response to Olympic rule change

Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
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Dina Asher-Smith has backed the relaxation of rules around athlete protests at the Tokyo Olympics, calling protest “a fundamental human right”.

In early July the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow protests before and after events, but a ban on protests at ceremonies, including on the podium, remains.

A letter signed by athletes has called for a complete lifting of sanctions.

And the 25-year-old British sprinter, who is among the favourites for 100m gold, said any punishment would be unworkable.

“If you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality, how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce that?” she said.

“Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong?

“I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right.”

She said the ban was “completely unenforceable”, adding: “I think they had no choice but to lift it otherwise they would have been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been very embarrassing for them.”

The IOC’s rule 50 states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

After consultations in the wake of widespread anti-racism protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the IOC announced that athletes can “express their views” before and after they compete, and when speaking to the media, but not during events, opening and closing ceremonies, on podiums or in the Olympic Village.

The athletes’ letter, with signatories including Tommie Smith and Carlos Smith – the black US sprinters whose Black Power Salute saw them expelled from the 1968 Mexico Olympics – said the relaxation does not go far enough.

Describing the present moment as a “turning point” for the global sporting committee, the letter states: “We do not believe the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sport.

Asher-Smith described the Smiths’ Black Power Salute as one of the Olympics’ “most iconic moments”.

She added: “That is something people remember the Olympics for, something they’re very proud to see at the Olympic Games.”

Has anything changed since Black Power salute?

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