Lewis supports Commonwealth Games’ decision to allow podium protests.
SOME 4,500 athletes at the upcoming Birmingham Commonwealth Games will be allowed to protest on the podium and openly support social justice causes, a move by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) that Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis called “bold and courageous”.
The move draws a stark contrast to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) stance and its Rule 50 that still prevents forms of protest on the podium and the field of play.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has approved the guidelines emerging from the CGF’s Athletes Advisory Commission (AAC) that was chaired by Dominica’s long jumper Brendan Williams.
Athletes will be allowed among other expressions to wave Pride flags in support of the LGBTQI community and rights and raise a fist for the Black Lives Matter movement and in favour of racial equality.
But under the new guidelines, athletes will be reminded that protests will be subject to the CGF “Charter of Good Conduct”.
Lewis lamented that the IOC, with its Euro-centric moorings and traditions, would still persist with Rule 50.
“In terms of the IOC, I don’t think that they would be convinced or either impressed by the stance taken by the CGF and the working group. I think the IOC would continue doing things their way in terms of Rule 50. They certainly would not feel in any way perturbed by the stance taken by the CGF,” the TTOC boss said.
While Lewis credited Williams for the document and CGF president Louise Martin for the courage to approve it, the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committee president also expects backlash from certain quarters.
“It’s only natural, transformation is messy, that it will attract criticism,” Lewis admitted. “The implementation and execution of the document itself is going to have teething problems but I fully expect it will be done and will be done in a dignified way, respecting the intent of the document which also speaks a lot to the views of the athletes, including those who may not share the view of athletes who wish to use the podium to express their views about various social injustices.”
In the context of the Commonwealth’s antecedents with colonialism, slavery and the empire, he said:
“The Commonwealth movement, the whole concept of the Commonwealth, it has issues of credibility and relevance because of the fact people are now trying to address compensation issues as related to colonialism and slavery. So it is bold and brave that president Louise Martin is not afraid to open the CGF to possible contention but the time has come that it needs to be done. And what the IOC chooses (to do) or not to do should not intimidate the CGF and president Martin.”