Olympics committee probing Mao Zedong pins worn on podium

Two Chinese cyclists wore pins depicting the founder of the country’s Communist Party and leader of the Cultural Revolution.

Gold medallists Bao Shanju, left, and Zhong Tianshi of China wore badges of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong on the podium [Matthew Childs/Reuters]
Gold medallists Bao Shanju, left, and Zhong Tianshi of China wore badges of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong on the podium [Matthew Childs/Reuters]

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched an investigation into two Chinese cyclists who wore pins displaying the likeness of Mao Zedong on the medal podium.

The IOC on Wednesday said the pins, which showed the silhouette of the founder of the Chinese Communist Party and orchestrater of the deadly Cultural Revolution, potentially violated Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans “political, religious and racial propaganda”.

Cyclists Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi wore the pins on their suits as they received gold medals for the women’s sprint on Monday.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams on Wednesday said Olympic officials were in contact with the Chinese Olympic Committee “who have assured us that we will receive a full formal answer soon”.

“But they have also assured us already that this will not happen again,” he said.

Likenesses celebrating Mao’s three-decade rule are common in China, where he remains a revered national figure to some despite the ravages of his Cultural Revolution – a brutal decade-long programme portrayed as a purge of capitalist social structures that historians say may have left as many two million Chinese dead.

Silver medallist Raven Saunders of the US gestures on the podium [File: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Saunders investigation ‘suspended’

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the IOC said it had suspended an investigation into shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders of the United States, who had raised her arms in an X above her head in Sunday’s medal ceremony. Saunders later said the gesture was meant to express support for the oppressed.

The IOC said the investigation is “fully suspended for the time being” following Saunders’s announcement on Wednesday that her mother had died.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee had already said Saunders’s gesture did not breach its rules as it was a “peaceful expression in support of racial and social justice (that) was respectful of her competitors”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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