Two Chinese cyclists are under investigation after they wore pins depicting former Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong on their uniforms at the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee is “looking into” a possible violation of its rules governing political demonstrations after Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi were spotted wearing the pins.
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Bao and Zhong won gold in the women's sprint on Monday and were photographed with the red pins attached to their warmup jackets during the medal ceremony.
Under Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
The IOC loosened the rule three weeks before the Tokyo Olympics to allow for athlete “expressions” that are “not disruptive” and “not targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organisations and/or their dignity.”
However the IOC reiterated last month that these expressions were not permitted during competition or official ceremonies, including medal ceremonies.
While the IOC has never defined “political propaganda,” it would appear that pins depicting a controversial political leader would fit the description.
Mao was a communist revolutionary who is considered the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, and of the government that remains in power today.
He ruled China with an iron fist from 1949 until his death in 1976.
He is considered responsible for one of history's biggest humanitarian disasters when his 'Great Leap Forward' campaign led to the deaths of up to 45 million people.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said on Tuesday that the IOC has “contacted the Chinese Olympic Committee, asked them for a report about the situation, and we are looking into the matter at hand yesterday.
"So, just as we would with similar situations, we are pursuing it.”
The IOC has given its disciplinary commission broad leeway to decide on consequences case-by-case.
IOC also investigating American shot put medallist
The IOC is also looking into a gesture American athlete Raven Saunders made after the shot put silver medallist raised her arms in an 'X' above her head.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said Saunders' gesture did not breach its rules.
"As with all delegations, Team USA is governed by the Olympic Charter and rules set forth by the IOC for Tokyo 2020," the USOPC said in a statement.
"Per the USOPC's delegation terms, the USOPC conducted its own review and determined that Raven Saunders' peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice that happened at the conclusion of the ceremony was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration."
Shot put Silver medalist #RavenSaunders of #TeamUnitedStates makes an 'X' to show support and signify the intersection of where all oppressed people meet, during the #tokyo2020 #OlympicGames 📸: @RyanPierse #athletics pic.twitter.com/yVsLOS7tQL
— Getty Images Sport (@GettySport) August 1, 2021
Saunders made the gesture on the podium after taking her maiden Games medal on Sunday.
"Let them try and take this medal," Saunders said in a late night post on social media in an apparent reference to the IOC's rules restricting protests.
"I'm running across the border even though I can't swim."
She indicated that her gesture was to support the downtrodden and oppressed.
with Yahoo Sports US and Reuters
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