IOC 'looking into' Chinese cyclists who wore Mao pins on medal podium
TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee is “looking into” a possible violation of its rules governing political demonstrations after two Chinese cyclists wore pins depicting former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong.
Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi won gold at the Tokyo Games on Monday, and at their medal ceremony, they were photographed with the red pins attached to their warmup jackets.
Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The IOC loosened the rule last month, three weeks before the Tokyo Olympics, to allow for athlete “expressions” that are “not disruptive” and “not targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organizations and/or their dignity.”
But in guidelines published last month, the IOC reiterated that these expressions were not permitted during competition or official ceremonies, including medal ceremonies.
The IOC has never defined “political propaganda,” but it would appear that pins depicting a controversial political leader would fit the description. Mao was a communist revolutionary who is considered the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, and of the government that remains in power today.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday that the IOC has “contacted the Chinese Olympic Committee, asked them for a report about the situation, and we are looking into the matter at hand yesterday. So, just as we would with similar situations, we are pursuing it.”
If Bao and Zhong are found to have violated Rule 50, they could face consequences, but the IOC has also given its disciplinary commission broad leeway to decide on consequences case-by-case.
Adams also said Tuesday that the IOC was still looking into the demonstration by U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders, who raised her arms in an “X” during her medal ceremony as a gesture of unity with “all people who are oppressed.” Adams seemed to defer to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which has already said that Saunders was “respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.” It remains unclear whether Saunders will face punishment.
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