Olympics Must Adhere to Freedom of Speech

The Olympics are about to take place in Tokyo. The games were started in Greece over 2000 years ago, and it was a Frenchman Charles Pierre de Frédy, an educator and historian who founded the new Olympic Movement in 1894. 

In the West, we cherish our Human Rights and the Olympics should hold these values high. It is the West that organises and pays for most of the costs and we should ensure that the games promote Human Rights, not close them down for a few weeks.

Almost every country in the world has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, that starts with the following words:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,”

The current president of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Bach, a German who should know better, has warned athletes against political protests at the upcoming Tokyo games. He says that they should avoid “divisive” statements that could overshadow the world’s biggest sporting event. 

Most of the athletes are young people and they have this fundamental right to express their opinions on matters that they believe are important – be it Climate Change, discrimination because of colour, and other abuses of human rights, etc. 

Today, nobody in their right mind could agree that people like Hitler should be the patron of this sporting event, yet here we have the current German boss of the Olympic Committee effectively stripping athletes of their right of freedom of speech on matters relating to specific questions of Human Rights’ abuses.

Some says that corporate sponsors object to athletes speaking out about human rights but these same big companies all talk about Corporate Social Responsibility on the front page of their annual reports. Are we ready to accept double standards from these big companies? Of course not – the companies should stay in line with what they advertise and Bach should be demanding this, not complaining about the good work of enlightened athletes.

Sports are about remaining healthy to better enjoy life. It is not about denying Human Rights, but about expanding Human Rights. Bach should be removed from office for making such statements. 

The Olympics should be an event cheering for and celebrating Human Rights. Countries like North Korea, China, Russia, Belarus, and many other countries where Human Rights are openly abused are not forced to participate.

It would be interesting to hear from the former Mayor of Helsinki, a former EIB Director, and a former Finnish government Minister, Mr. Vapaavuori (see above photo) who is now the Chair of the Finnish Olympic Committee about Freedom of Speech at the Olympics. He remains strangely silent on this matter even though he has held high political office in a country that cherishes freedom of speech and all other Human Rights.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/dodoorg/2900218298/Author DoDo

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