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18-year-old gymnast makes history with Black Lives Matter protest in floor routine at Olympics

International Olympic Committee said athletes will be allowed to make gestures of protest in their field of play at the Tokyo Games.

18-year-old gymnast makes history with Black Lives Matter protest in floor routine at Olympics
Image source: Screengrab/NBC

Luciana Alvarado, an 18-year-old gymnast from Costa Rica made a powerful statement as she took a knee as part of her floor routine to show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. While many athletes have shown their support for the movement, Luciana Alvarado's was unique because she weaved it into her floor choreography. At the end of the routine, she took a knee, put her left arm behind her back, and raised her right fist to the sky, reported TODAY. Alvarado is also the first-ever gymnast from Costa Rica to ever qualify for the Olympics. She's the first to do the gesture on an international stage in elite gymnastics. 

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Luciana Alvarado of Team Costa Rica competes on vault during Women's Qualification on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)



The 18-year-old did confirm that her routine was a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “My cousin and I, we both do it in our routines,” said Alvarado. “And I feel like if you do something that brings everyone together, you know, and you see that here, like 'Yes, you're one of mine, you understand things', the importance of everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we're all the same and we're all beautiful and amazing so I think that's why I love to have it in my routine and I love that my little cousin does it on her routine too," the 18-year-old added. She had done the floor routine during the fourth subdivision of the women’s artistic gymnastics qualifications.

SAPPORO, JAPAN - JULY 24: Nikita Parris #7 of Team Great Britain takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the Women's First Round Group E match between Japan and Great Britain on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Dome on July 24, 2021 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)


Many other athletes, including, women soccer players have taken a knee in protest of racism at the Tokyo Olympics. Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that Olympic athletes will be allowed to make gestures of protest in their field of play at the Tokyo Games. Athletes are allowed to make gestures of protest only “prior to the start of the competition.” IOC said athletes will not be able to register their gestures of protest on the podium at medal ceremonies. They will be allowed to make their protest “after leaving the ‘call room’ (or similar area) or during the introduction of the individual athlete or team,” the IOC said. However, athletes will still face disciplinary action if their gesture is “targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organizations,” or is disruptive, said IOC.

The new rule is a marked difference from its long-standing Rule 50 of its Olympic Charter that states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” The rule was reviewed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that broke out all over the world following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 


IOC also added that athletes could wear apparel displaying words like “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality,” but slogans rejected slogans such as “Black Lives Matter.” Many athlete groups and player unions offered legal representation to anyone who was disciplined for their actions in Tokyo. Even the updated guidelines are vague but John Carlos, who raised his black-gloved fist alongside teammate Tommie Smith on the podium at the 1968 Olympics, has said IOC will have a hard time targeting someone now. Carlos and Smith were both expelled from the Olympics and banned from future Olympic Games at the time. "Without a doubt, somebody is going to make a statement," said John Carlos, reported The Undefeated. Carlos believes some IOC officials "are going to come after them, try to make a mockery of them," but added they'll be exposed. "The difference is, 53 years ago they could mislead people. I don't think they can lead people as blindly now as they did 53 years ago."

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