The deadline to participate in the IOC Athletes Commission survey has passed ©Getty Images

The deadline for athletes to complete an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission survey on athlete expression at the Olympic Games has now passed.

The IOC announced in June that its Athletes' Commission would "have dialogue with athletes around the world to explore different ways for how Olympic athletes can express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter in a dignified way".

Olympians and elite athletes were invited to participate in the survey, devised after an initial consultation phase with Athletes’ Commissions.

The "mixed quantitative and qualitative survey" was supported by FORS, the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Social Sciences.

The deadline to complete the survey expired yesterday,

Discussions around athlete expression have gained prominence in recent months, following the publication of Rule 50 guidelines last year.

The debate was heightened further by the demonstrations by athletes as part of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020.

In the Olympic Movement, there have also been renewed calls for a change to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter with some calling for it to be scrapped altogether.

Rule 50 states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims this is designed to protect the neutrality of sport and the Olympic Movement.

Several National Olympic Committees (NOC) and their Athlete Commissions have conducted their own processes to determine athletes’ positions on the issue.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced last month that it would not sanction athletes for demonstrating at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Their decision followed the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice calling for the end of the prohibition of peaceful demonstrations by team members at the Games.

The USOPC previously faced criticism for placing fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry on 12-month probations after demonstrating during the Lima 2019 Pan American Games.

Positions have varied, with NOC Athlete Commissions and independent athlete groups having offered contributions.

An Australian Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission survey found the majority believed they should be able to express themselves but without impacting other athletes' performances or the overall Olympic Games experience.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents to a survey of Irish Olympic hopefuls and Olympians said some form of protest should be allowed at the Games.

Panam Sports presented the findings of its Rule 50 survey last month ©Panam Sports
Panam Sports presented the findings of its Rule 50 survey last month ©Panam Sports

However, more than half of respondents to a survey carried out by the DOSB said they agreed with the rules governing expression of opinion during the Olympics.

The Canadian Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission has called for a separation of the rules regarding commercial expressions and political protests – both of which come under Rule 50 at present.

Clearly defining terms within Rule 50, including "demonstration" and "propaganda", is also recommended.

More than half of respondents to a survey carried out by the German Olympic Sports Confederation said they agreed with the rules governing expression of opinion during the Olympics.

German athlete body Athleten Deutschland, however, have claimed a change to Rule 50 is imperative.

The organisation said athletes should be able to take a stand for the values of a free and democratic society at any time, adding that the "far-reaching and general restriction of freedom of expression in the context of sporting competitions is therefore no longer acceptable".

Panam Sports Athletes’ Commission reported the findings of its survey last month.

A total of 218 athletes completed the survey, representing 25 countries.

The survey found 189 of the athletes believed discrimination is something the IOC should address, with 191 saying the IOC should revaluate its rules regularly.

A total of 153 athletes deemed Rule 50 to be completely or partially unjust, although only 39 called for its abolition.

Amendments were recommended by 98 athletes, while 81 said Rule 50 should remain as it is.

The IOC Athletes’ Commission hopes to finalise a Rule 50 recommendation early this year.

IOC President Thomas Bach has previously warned the Olympics should not be "a marketplace of demonstrations", when faced with calls to relax Rule 50.