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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said today that it has asked China for explanations after two Chinese athletes took to the podium at the medal ceremony wearing pins of former Communist leader Mao Zedong.
“We have asked China to report on the situation after this appeared in some media,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said today in Tokyo when asked about the issue at a press conference.
Cyclists Zhong Tianshi and Bao Shanju, who won gold in the team sprint event on Monday, stood on the podium at the award ceremony with badges decorating their kits of Mao Zedong, the leader of the cultural revolution that caused more than 40 million deaths from famine in China.
The Olympic Charter prohibits political demonstrations by athletes on the podium, in the stadiums, or during Olympic ceremonies, as well as any kind of solidarity or social demonstrations.
However, the IOC recently relaxed its interpretation of these rules to allow athletes to express themselves on themes such as solidarity, unity, and non-discrimination in visible messages in the Village or through their clothing.
The IOC is also considering another gesture made the day before on the shot put podium by American athlete Raven Saunders, the silver medalist, who crossed her arms over her head in the shape of an X to indicate “the intersection where all those who are oppressed meet.”
Saunders’ was considered the first gesture on the athletics podium at the Tokyo Olympics, in possible contravention of IOC rules.