Female gymnasts pose together, sitting on the edge of a stage.

Gymnast Luciana Alvarado Seems To Have Found a Way Around the Olympics’ No-Protest Rule

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Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has relaxed—but definitely not eliminated—its ban on athletes protesting.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” This year, though, with the rise of athletes using their platform to protest racial injustice, the IOC introduced rule 50.2.

That rule allows for athletes to “express their views” in certain settings, including during interviews, on social media, and in their area of play before or after competition but not during. “Expressions” are also not permitted during official ceremonies or in the Olympic Village.

“When it comes to clothing, the IOC will allow athletes to wear apparel at Olympic venues with words such as peace, respect, solidarity, inclusion and equality. But phrases such as Black Lives Matter aren’t part of the messaging,” writes NPR.

The amendment to rule 50 was apparently introduced fairly hastily and some athletic groups have criticized it for its lack of transparency, saying it could actually deter athletes from expressing themselves and is destined to lead to “arbitrary decisions” regarding individual expressions.

But 18-year-old Luciana Alvarado, the first gymnast from Costa Rica to ever qualify for the Olympics, seems to have found a loophole to the IOC’s ban on protests during competition. She ended her floor routine with an unmistakable pose, dropping to one knee and raising her fist in the air.

Alvarado told the AP that the pose was deliberately meant to invoke the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Alvarado said Friday after she performed the same move at training that she hoped to highlight the importance of equal rights on a global stage, and champion treating all with respect and dignity,” writes the AP.

“Because we’re all the same,” she told the outlet, “and we’re all beautiful and amazing.”

Speaking to the podcast GymCast following her routine, she said:

My cousin and I, we both do it in our routines. And I feel like if you do something that brings everyone together, you know, and you see that here, like ‘Yes, you’re one of mine, you understand things’, the importance of everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we’re all the same and we’re all beautiful and amazing so I think that’s why I love to have it in my routine and I love that my little cousin does it on her routine too.

Alvarado did not score well enough to move forward to the finals, but she made history twice during her Olympic stint.

(image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.