Coe Visits Tokyo

(ATR) World Athletics President Sebastian Coe reiterates support of athletes kneeling on the podium during stadium tour.

(ATR) World Athletics President Sebastian Coe inspects the track at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo and meets Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori during a visit to Japan.

Coe toured the stadium, which will host athletics, football and the opening and closing ceremonies, with World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon.

"I am absolutely delighted that I was able to see first hand the progress and I am very excited about the prospect of athletics being here next year," Coe said.

He is confident that the postponed Games can be held safely despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"There may have to be some adaptations, there may have to be some differences, but I am absolutely convinced that even under those circumstances it will still be a fantastic Games. We will adapt and we will be supportive of the Organizing Committee in anything that we need to do to make sure that athletics is centre stage in the Olympic Games."

Coe later paid a visit to Mori at the Tokyo 2020 headquarters.

He told the Tokyo 2020 leader "As an International Federation we want to work alongside you to resolve many of the challenges that you have in delivering a great Games."

Coe also told Mori that another World Athletics team will be visiting Sapporo, which will be hosting the marathon and race walking events.

During his tour of the stadium, Coe voiced his continued support for athletes having the right to protest on the podium. That’s not allowed under Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter.

"I have been very clear; if an athlete wishes to take a knee on a podium, then I am supportive of that," said Coe, according to Reuters. "Athletes are a part of the world and they want to reflect the world they live in. For me, that is perfectly acceptable."

The IOC in January of this year released guidelines for athletes going to Tokyo 2020, saying that they could express their opinions at press conferences and mixed zones and on social media but that political gestures such as kneeling on the podium were not allowed.

Calls for changing Rule 50 have increased in recent months with the global support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May.

Athleten Deutschland on Wednesday became the latest group to call for a revision of Rule 50, saying in a statement "Athletes should be able to take a stand for the values of a free and democratic society at any time. For Athleten Deutschland the far-reaching and general restriction of freedom of expression in the context of sporting competitions is therefore no longer acceptable."

Athleten Deutschland say it has submitted its position to the IOC Athletes’ Commission, which is currently consulting with athlete groups around the world about Rule 50, which is intended to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Games.

The Athletes’ Commission plans to submit its first report to the IOC Executive Board in December and make final recommendations in the first quarter of 2021.

Written by Gerard Farek

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