FINA Confirms Altered IOC Rule 50 as Protest, Expression Restrictions Eased for Olympics

Mack Horton AUS protests Sun Yang's CHN Gold Medal, 400m Freestyle Final, 18th FINA World Swimming Championships 2019, 21 July 2019, Gwanju South Korea. Pic by Delly Carr/Swimming Australia. Pic credit requested and mandatory for free editorial usage. THANK YOU.
Mack Horton protests Sun Yang's Gold Medal in the 400m free at 2019 World titles in Gwanju, South Korea - Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia

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One of the most talked about and controversial storylines heading into the Olympics in Tokyo has been the stance on athlete self-expression and social protest. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has altered its Rule 50 with updated guidelines, endorsed by FINA, that ease some of the restrictions.

Under Rule 50 new guidance athletes will be able to express their views on the field of play before competition so long is it is not targeted against people, not disruptive and not otherwise prohibited by national Olympic committees or international federations.

Expressions and protests during competition, in the Olympic village and during ceremonies — including medal, opening and closing ceremonies — remain against Rule 50 baring “political, religious or racial propaganda.”

Following discussions with the IOC, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) has confirmed a wide range of opportunities for athlete self-expression at the aquatics competitions of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. These opportunities for athletes to express their views will include:

  • In the mixed zones, including when speaking to the media
  • In the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) or the Main Media Centre (MMC), including when speaking to the media
  • During press conferences in the venue or in the MMC
  • During interviews
  • At team meetings, subject to NOC conditions
  • In traditional media or digital media
  • Through social media channels, consistent with IOC and NOC social media guidelines

“FINA fully supports an athlete’s right to free speech. It is a fundamental aspect of democracy and such voice should not be suppressed, within the bounds of respect and dignity. Our athletes’ voices matter and should be heard,” said FINA President Husain Al Musallam.

Consistent with FINA’s practice at all of its competitions, based on the FINA Code of Conduct, any political, religious or discriminatory statement or behaviour will remain strictly prohibited on the field of play, starting when the athlete leaves the call room or similar. Consistent with FINA’s practice and the IOC’s guidelines on the implementation of its Rule 50.2, political, religious or discriminatory statements during the medal ceremonies and on the medal podiums will also be prohibited.

“Athletes have the right to the privacy of the moment, to remain free of unnecessary distraction from the competition and preparation, with the pool deck remaining a sanctity for sport and nothing else. The pool deck is and must always remain a place of friendship and respect for the greater whole, not the individual,” said Al Musallam.  “The same level of respect should be given to the podium. This moment celebrates the accomplishments of individuals/teams, their support teams, coaches, families and nations, who each and all deserve to cherish that moment without interference.  It is a moment that commands respect and triumph for sporting results and should not be remembered by individual expression.”

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