Chinese Olympic gold medalists under IOC probe for wearing Mao Zedong pins

Chinese Olympic medalists

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is investigating two Chinese Olympic gold medalists for potentially breaching its rules on the display of political paraphernalia.

Badge of loyalty: Cyclists Bao Shanju (鲍珊菊) and Zhong Tianshi (钟天使) took to the podium wearing pins with China’s former leader Mao Zedong’s face on them after winning the Olympic gold in the women’s team sprint on Monday, Reuters reported.

  • Mao, who proclaimed the People’s Republic of China’s establishment in October 1949, is a revered figure in China as its founding father.
  • The pins featuring Mao, popularly worn in the country during his reign, are still worn in China by citizens today. 
  • The athletes’ gesture was celebrated by Chinese media outlets as an expression of loyalty to China and the ruling Communist Party of China.
  • China’s current leader Xi Jinping often cited the communist ideology espoused by Mao when he chaired the party from 1943 until he died in 1976. 

The investigation: The IOC has reportedly asked the Chinese Olympic Committee to conduct their own investigation and determine whether the athletes violated Rule 50 of the IOC charter, which states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

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  • The Chinese Olympic Committee assured the IOC that none of its athletes would be wearing the badges anymore and said they would provide a report soon.
  • According to the charter, violations of the rule can lead to “disciplinary action…on a case-by-case basis as necessary.”
  • In 1968, African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Mexico Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists at the podium.
  • In the current Tokyo Games, U.S. athlete Raven Saunders attracted the IOC’s attention after crossing her arms in the shape of an X during her medal ceremony.
  • The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said the gesture “was respectful of her competitors and did not violate our rules related to demonstration.”
  • On Wednesday, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said they are suspending their action against Saunders following her mother’s passing, reports CNN.

Featured Image via Frontline

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