Athletes will be free to protest on the podium and send respectful messages at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is set to reveal that competitors who receive their medals will be able to “advocate” without fear of being stopped or sanctioned.
Sky Sports News can exclusively reveal that ‘Athlete Advocacy Guidelines’ have been drawn up in plans to demonstrate that the CGF will support any athlete who wants to positively highlight or draw attention to an issue that they feel is important, especially those around race, gender, sexual orientation and social injustice.
To make the podium a place where athletes can be free to address or highlight an issue contrasts with the experience many athletes have had at the recent Olympic Games in Beijing and Tokyo.
Despite relaxing its rules on protesting, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states that the podium must not be used as place to raise awareness for a cause. Only a handful of athletes defied the decree in Tokyo, the most high profile being USA shot-putter Raven Saunders, who raised and crossed her arms after collecting her silver medal.
Brendan Williams, chair of the CGF’s athletes commission, told Sky Sports News: “It’s going to be fresh, something new, something changing and in most instances eye-opening, where the Commonwealth Games Federation is taking a bold step to allow its athletes to be those ambassadors of change.
“The podium at any games is a sacred space, it is basically the recognition and the awarding of all your achievements. You’ve done all the sweat, the sacrifices you have made to accomplish winning an event.
“But we at the Commonwealth Games are allowing athletes to use this platform. Advocate positively for social causes which they feel are just to them. But these athletes must also respect their fellow competitors because they too have placed enough work, sweat and sacrifices just to reach that point.
“Thus, we are advocating that athletes speak with their fellow competitor, speak for a cause that you feel so rightly that you should advocate for at the Games on the podium, so that you are on a level playing field whilst respecting each other.
“It may be human rights. It may be victimisation due to race. It may be the lack of understanding of my religious belief or my sexual orientation. So it is bringing awareness in a positive and respectful way.” – Sky Sports