NEW DELHI: World Athletics President Sebastian Coe says he is happy to “accommodate” athletes expressing their views against issues like racism but made it clear that such gestures should not infringe on other sportspersons’ right to celebrate their moments of glory.
Top athletes across the world have expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which gathered steam after the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the USA.
However, Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter bans any form of protest including taking a knee, raising a fist or refusing to follow protocol at medal ceremonies. Coe finds nothing wrong in expression of a view.
“It is pretty evident that everybody is reviewing their view about their approach within their own sport. I am very happy for the athletes if they choose to restate their opposition to discrimination or to racism in sport, anti-racist initiatives etc,” Coe said in an interaction with PTI.
“I am very happy for that to be accommodated. I am also very clear that any gesture like that or observable gesture needs to be done respectfully and fully recognising that if it is to be on the dais there are also other athletes on the dais who are celebrating their moment of achievement.”
He said such expression of views should be “within a framework” and “cannot be in detriment of somebody else’s intrinsic enjoyment and celebration of their achievement”.
Last Saturday, WA gave President’s Award to the iconic athletes famous for their black power pose at the 200m victory ceremony of the 1968 Olympic Games.
Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood with bowed heads, black gloves and raised fists while the Australian silver medallist Peter Norman stood still in one of the most iconic images in world sport.
“Athletics has consistently been in the forefront of thought leadership. It has done so in the past like by Jesse Owens in 1936 Olympics. We also had refugees team in Olympics stadium making observations about all sorts of things,” Coe said.
The 64-year-old double Olympic gold-medallist was cautious when asked about the next season amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has wreaked havoc on this year’s calendar.
“I am hopeful (of next season). I am not sure optimistic is the right word. At last there are elements that give me more comfort, things that are beginning to come together.
“Of course, we have the vaccine. … I know scientists who warned me to be cautious because the pattern of the virus and changes are complicated.
“I hope we are in a position to deliver as much of (next) season as we possibly can. The centrepiece of that season is to be the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
Asked about the adaptations the athletes may have to make during the Tokyo Olympics, he said, “I hope we have spectators in the stadium but we don’t know still, they may be partially full stadiums.
“Whether they (athletes) are going to get used to life in (Athletes) Village where social distancing is probably going to be a problem, where masks may still need to be worn, we don’t know. The local organisers and local health team will figure out.”