An American Olympic athlete who performed a political gesture during a medal ceremony is the subject of a temporarily suspended investigation by the International Olympic Committee. Shot-putter Raven Saunders won a silver medal in an event and subsequently crossed her arms in a political gesture during the medal ceremony. Political statements are banned at the Olympics under longstanding rules put in place by the IOC.
Politics in the Olympics
Political statements have always been considered as contradictory to the spirit of international unity and good sportsmanship that inspired the modern Olympics.
While there was widespread speculation on what would happen in Tokyo and a number of athletes who expressed a desire to use the opportunity to promote BLM, the rules remained in place.
Most Olympic athletes globally are said to be supportive of the rule. There may be more of a divide among athletes from the United States but the games themselves have seen few political statements being made by any participants.
While on the podium with the other medalists for her event Raven Saunders raised her hands over her head in the shape of an X.
Saunders claimed that the X represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” Whatever that means.
While the meaning of the gesture was not well explained it was obviously intended as a political statement which distracted attention away from her fellow competitors and showed a lack of respect for the other medalists.
Could have been worse
The International Olympic Committee did not announce any decision on whether or not this was a rule violation but they quickly announced that the incident was the subject of an investigation.
Now that investigation has been temporarily suspended, but not canceled altogether, following the sudden death of Saunders’ mother Clarissa.
The International Olympic Committee understandably felt that it would be the wrong time to carry on an active investigation, though there is no word on when it might be restarted.
Elsewhere in the games the United States women’s soccer team, which had been kneeling for BLM before games, was defeated by the Canadian team and lost any chance to win the gold.
For the most part, however, political intrusions into the games themselves have been mercifully uncommon and not nearly as drastic as many had feared before the opening ceremony.
The United States currently holds a narrow lead in medals over China. Japan has been performing exceptionally well with a total of 40 medals so far, a nice change for the host nation after a lengthy series of disasters in the planning stages.