The International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a photo on Monday. It shows President Thomas Bach in the snow-capped mountains of Lausanne, where he unites two young athletes at the Youth Olympics in grandfather style with their hands on their shoulders. "This is the Olympic Spirit," said Bach accordingly. The two skiing talents come from Iran and the USA. A nice sign of sporting understanding in times of political crisis, it seems.
In context, it only seems cynical. Because a few days earlier, the IOC published a guideline for the summer games in Tokyo. Accordingly, athletes are not allowed to make political statements in the Olympic sites. The rule does not apply to interviews before or after the competitions. At the moment, however, with the greatest attention, at the competition and the award ceremony, the prescribed confidentiality applies. It cuts the athletes' right to freedom of expression.
Bach justifies it like this: The Olympic Games should not be a platform “to advance political or other potentially divisive goals. If political neutrality is not respected, the Olympic Games will split the world and not unite it. ”
Athletes are silent, officials speak. The more the spotlight shines on the latter.
The athletes are apparently not too mature. The protests had increased significantly in the past year. Athletes named grievances. They competed in competitions for equality, against racism, also against doping. For example, soccer world champion Megan Rapinoe, who opposed Trump's politics.
After this experience, the IOC now had to fear critical sounds and TV pictures from Tokyo. And because bad mood is bad for business, the officials prevented such business-damaging behavior as a precaution.
Athletes are at the bottom of the IOC's hierarchy and rights
Thomas Bach himself repeatedly proves how political the Olympic Games are. According to research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the sports official has several diplomatic passports. He can always be photographed with heads of state. Most recently at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018, he mimicked the peacemaker between North and South Korea. The political relationship between the hostile brother states has long since cooled again. The beautiful pictures of Bach's endeavors, however, were remembered. His name was once again associated with the Nobel Peace Prize, in his spirit.
The IOC, it seems, only allows politics if it benefits it. This shows once again how little appreciation Bach and the IOC have for the protagonists of their billion dollar business. The athletes are at the bottom in the ranking and rights system. The IOC did not even mention the names of the young athletes who were allowed to pose with Bach for international understanding between Iran and the USA – it is probably the ski mountaineers Ali Kalhor and Grace Staberg. They were only accessories for the self-staging of the officials.
The IOC is wasting an opportunity. It has been fighting for acceptance for a long time. Recently there were hardly any applicants for the games. If athletes position themselves politically and stand for values so that they are role models and inspiration, then it would actually be good for the IOC. Because that is what the games once stood for and what society once expected from them: a symbol of the peaceful competition of the peoples. The IOC's muzzle, however, only stands for oppression, harassment – and the vanity of officials.