Brock expert says Olympics are a political game

A Brock University Assistant Professor of Sport Management says he’s surprised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) felt the need to clarify its rule about political gestures.

IOC President Thomas Bach defended the Committee’s decision this week to tighten its rules around athlete activism.

Bach said Friday the Olympics are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends, but Brock Sport Management Assistant Professor Michael Naraine says that stance isn’t necessarily accurate.

“The Olympic Games are inherently a political event,” Naraine says. “For instance, having a unified Korean team at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang was a political statement.”

That said, Naraine says he understands why the IOC wants to “protect and preserve the commercial value to sponsors and broadcast rights holders in this new era of ‘wokeness’ and athlete activism.”

“There are sponsors on board for the Olympic movement who are spending billions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games,” he says. “New entrants like Toyota, Intel and Alibaba are publicly traded firms that are using the Games to advance their products and services and perceived negative publicity or any disruption to the event could derail their branding and message consistency.”

The move to clarify the IOC’s pollical gestures rules also comes on the heels of the current global conflicts and tension.

“The IOC is allowing athletes to share their dissent or activism via social media,  however this is unlikely to be the case given that athletes will want to use their digital brands to maximize partnerships and stay ‘on brand,’ Naraine says.

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