Will athletes take the knee at the Tokyo Olympic Games? Who is Dina Asher Smith and what did she say about protest at Tokyo 2020?

Team GB sprinting star Dina Asher-Smith has spoken out over the former ban on 'taking the knee' at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 after the International Olympic Committee was forced to make several U-turns on its protest policies.

As the Olympic Games 2020 finally gets started in 2021 after being delayed following the coronavirus pandemic, the stance famously started by US San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 as a statement against continued racism towards black US citizens has emerged as one of the championship’s latest controversies to hit the games so far.

This came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to do a U-turn on its prohibition of the gesture and other forms of protest which, despite Olympic rules, have historically featured at the games.

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Olympics 2021: Will athletes take the knee at the Olympic Games? Who is Dina Asher Smith and what did she say about protest at Tokyo 2020? (Image credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)Olympics 2021: Will athletes take the knee at the Olympic Games? Who is Dina Asher Smith and what did she say about protest at Tokyo 2020? (Image credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)
Olympics 2021: Will athletes take the knee at the Olympic Games? Who is Dina Asher Smith and what did she say about protest at Tokyo 2020? (Image credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

The latest development has seen British athletics star Dina Asher-Smith speak out over the proposed ban on the sports anti-racism stance and throw her support behind athletes wishing to do it at this year’s games.

Here’s the latest on taking the knee at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Are athletes taking the knee at the Olympics 2021?

The Olympic Games has long forbidden forms of protest from taking place at the international championships, with Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter stating:

"No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by all competitors, team officials, other team personnel and all other participants in the Olympic Games.”

The chapter five rule also declares that any athlete who does so should be disqualified, in a move that was panned by athletes worldwide when the rule was reiterated in January 2020.

But following the global backlash, the IOC announced ahead of the much-anticipated Tokyo Games that the rules would be relaxed to allow athletes to take the knee or protest peacefully in a small window prior to competition.

This came as the Team GB women’s football team kicked off their Olympics challenge by taking the knee before winning against Chile on Wednesday July 21.

In a statement issued prior to the match, the Team GB said: "The Team GB Women's Football squad have confirmed their intention to take the knee on the field of play ahead of kick-off in their games at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Football tournament in Japan.

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"The squad welcomed recent clarification provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in relation to Rule 50 which now permits athletes to make gestures on the field of play, provided they are done so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors."

With the US women’s football team also taking the knee prior to their dramatic loss to Sweden in their first Olympics match, there is no doubt that many more athletes from across the globe will stage the protest in the same way beyond football as the largest summer Olympic Games ever gets underway.

Despite this, IOC President Thomas Bach warned athletes in early July that those who choose to make “political demonstrations” or stage protests on the medal podium at the games will be subject to sanctions from the organising committee.

Just this week, however, the IOC was again forced to overturn rules stating that images of athletes making the powerful anti-racist stance were forbidden – with social media teams now allowed to post images of any such moments of the protest staged online.

Who is Dina Asher-Smith?

25-year-old Dina Asher-Smith one of 77 athletes competing in Team GB’s athletics squad at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, with the sprinting star set to compete in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay running events at this year’s championship.

This follows her success at the 2019 World Athletics Championships held in Doha, where Asher-Smith scooped a gold medal in the 200m sprint, and two silvers for the 100m and 4x100m relay.

She has been declared the fastest British woman in history after setting a new British record in 200m with a run-time of 21.88 seconds in 2019, making her one of Team GB’s greatest hopes for a top medal in this year’s athletics rounds.

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Team GB Olympics 2021: Who's on Team GB football, swimming, athletics teams for ...

What did Asher-Smith say about ‘taking the knee’ at the Tokyo Olympics?

Dina Asher-Smith believes any ban on protests at the Olympics would have caused embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee and insisted athletes have the right to a voice.

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Team GB's biggest medal hope on the track welcomed the IOC's decision to allow competitor protests at the Tokyo Games.

Asher-Smith stopped short of saying she would take the knee but expressed that she always felt the IOC would perform a U-turn.

She said: "I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right. If you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce that?

"Would you revoke someone's medal for saying racism is wrong? But I think it's good they have lifted it. How would you police that, particularly when people feel so strongly about that right now?”

Asher-Smith continued: "I did see it as completely unenforceable and I think they had no choice but to lift it otherwise they would have been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been very embarrassing for them.

"Unless they want to say they are against people being against racism I didn't see how that was going to happen.

"Some of the Olympics' most iconic moments have been the black power salute by Tommie Smith (in 1968). That is something people remember the Olympics for, something they're very proud to see at the Olympic Games.

"So to think they're suddenly going to get up and say 'absolutely not' I think they'd be shooting themselves in the foot."

Additional reporting by PA journalist Nick Mashiter

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