Mark England, Team GB’s chef de mission at the Olympics this summer, says the organisation is in dialogue with British athletes to ensure those who wish to protest in Tokyo will be able to do so. England was speaking as Great Britain announced what he says will be their strongest swimming team at an Olympic Games.
“The Team GB athlete commission has been in close contact with the IOC,” said England. “It’s been a very strong rebuttal around athletes protesting on the podium or the field of play. But I’m relaxed because our communication with our athletes’ commission is regular and pertinent. We had a very open dialogue with all athletes, not just the commission.”
England said around 300 athletes were recently hosted on a call to discuss numerous issues and another will soon be scheduled in light of the International Olympic Committee’s decision to uphold its rule 50, which forbids athletes from demonstrating on the podium in competition or during the ceremonies.
“We’ll listen to what they have to say and what they want to do and what their preferred action may well be and it’s really important that we find an avenue and a route for those athletes across the team who wish to protest against whatever issue may be close to their heart or globally across the athlete fraternity. That dialogue continues and I am looking forward to the next edition of it.”
Great Britain’s swimming team – for which Adam Peaty, Duncan Scott, James Wilby and Luke Greenbank had already been selected – announced the full 28-member team following the British Swimming selection trials that ended on 18 April. The group includes the former world champions Ben Proud, James Guy and Molly Renshaw, plus the former European champion Freya Anderson.
“I’m pretty confident that we are selecting the strongest swim team that has ever represented Team GB at an Olympic games,” said England. “The strength in depth that the swimming team has now and the performance outcomes from recent results and everything has just been nothing short of fantastic.
Peaty, the 100m breaststroke Olympic champion and world record holder, further underlined his intentions for the summer, saying: “For me, without going too deep into it, it’s obviously to reinstate my gold medal. I’d be lying if I didn’t want to go there and defend – or attack, as I call it – but really it’s just as good as anyone. I want to go out there with my best performance and to get to that equals getting the right mindset, nerves, the enjoyment, the thrill of it, the adrenaline.
“I want to go out there and just enjoy the process of going to the Olympics, an incredible process, and hopefully give the country and the world what it deserves after going through so much rubbish with Covid-19.”
In light of local governments recently reconsidering their agreements to host certain national teams, including the city of Okuizumo recently deciding against hosting India’s hockey team, England also underlined that Great Britain’s plans remain firm. He said: “Where you have individual national federations negotiating their own training camps, it can be quite complex. But we have, and it was reinforced last Friday, Kawasaki, Yokohama and Keio University absolutely 100% support[ing] us.”