Commonwealth Games to allow athlete protests - chief

Athletes competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England will be allowed to take a knee in support of worldwide anti-racism movements, competition organisers said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday that it would open talks that could let athletes make stronger protests at next year's Tokyo Games, despite having strengthened its ban on political statements by specifying that gestures such as taking a knee or raising a fist on a medal podium remain prohibited.

On Thursday, Commonwealth Games organisers said they would respect people's rights to voice their opinions.

"The movement is challenging all institutions to really look introspectively at what we can do to be more fair, more free, have better equality. Sport is no different," Commonwealth Games chief executive David Grevemberg told reporters.

"We are comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation and we need to embrace it. We maybe have more responsibility because of the shared history of the Commonwealth so we need to find solutions that don't build walls but rather build bridges."

Grevemberg said athlete protests have long been a part of the Commonwealth Games, citing the example of former Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman, who wrapped herself in the Aboriginal flag after winning the 200 and 400 metre races in the 1994 Games. Freeman went on to win the 400 metre race at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, afterwards draping herself in both the Aboriginal and Australian flags.

"The reason her moment was so powerful at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was because of what she did in Victoria in 1994," Grevemberg added.

Several major sports organisations have moved to allow athletes to protest in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.

World football's governing body, FIFA, urged competition organisers last week to apply "common sense" and consider not sanctioning players demanding justice for Floyd during matches.

Floyd, who was black, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin, who was fired, has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.