Daley Thompson backs right of Olympians to ‘take knee’ in Tokyo next summer

Daley Thompson has backed the right of athletes to protest at next year’s Olympics and said he expects Games chiefs to relax their ban on such demonstrations.

Stars are prohibited by Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter from taking any kind of political stand but the decathlon legend reckons the global uproar over George Floyd's death in the US will bring about a change.

“Athletes are people, they are not automatons,” said Thompson, Olympic champion in 1980 and 1984. “Some of them will clearly feel strongly enough to want to take a knee, to do whatever they feel is their responsibility to do.

“There should be, whether it’s on the podium or not, a forum for them to stand up and be counted if they want to.

“It’s an important cause. All lives matter. Nobody, whether you are white, black, any nationality, deserves to be killed for the colour of your skin or for simple prejudice.

“I think the IOC will try and curry favour with sponsors and allow the athlete some degree of choice in the matter.”

Thompson, 61, welcomes the global move to tackle inequality but says words from the public can only achieve so much if not matched by action from government and big business.

“There are a lot of sports people out there trying to influence change and that’s great,” he said. “But I think it’s going to take more than that.

"It’s going to take the will of the people that run the world. Whether it’s the President of the United States or Boris Johnson. Those are the guys with the real power. There needs to be a political will.”

Lord of the Rings, Thomas Bach, promised last week that athletes would now be consulted on how they would like to support the core Olympic values "in a dignified way”.

Thompson, who as a Laureus Academy Member helps disadvantaged young people around the world, feels frustrated at the pace of change over racism.

“You’d think 60 years after I was born that things would be getting better,” he said. “They are, in loads of different areas in our lives, but certain areas haven’t changed a lot. Racism is one of those.”

Thompson insists the year-long postponement of the Tokyo Games would not have hurt him were he still competing as “I’d have convinced myself that another nine months of hard work would only make me better”.

He reckons fellow multi-eventer Katarina Johnson-Thompson will also take it in her stride and has the potential to eclipse Jess Ennis-Hill and Denise Lewis as Britain’s greatest heptathlete.

“The great thing about sport is that you have to continuously answer the question: ‘Can I cope next time?’” he said. “Kat knows she can and it’s so good to see her grow mentally into her physical ability.

“If she comes into Tokyo with the same confidence she had last year I see no reason why a) she can’t get better and b) she can’t win.”

Since 2000, Laureus Sport for Good has used the power of sport to help change the lives of almost 6 million children and young people.

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