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Early Olympic Headlines: Bikini Fine, Demonstrations

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Olympic teams are making global headlines this week for their actions intended to demonstrate inequality.

The Norwegian women's handball team is facing a $1,700 (1,500 euro) dress code fine for not wanting to wear bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships.

Yahoo Sports reported that the team showed up for their bronze medal match against Spain wearing shorts, which is against the rules set by the International Handball Federation. Women are required to wear bikini bottoms for beach handball.

The European Handball Federation announced the fine on Monday. The 10 members of the team were fined 150 euros each.

The Norwegian Handball Federation will pay the fine and posted a message of support for the team on Instagram.

The translation, via People:

"We are very proud of these girls who are at the European Championships in beach handball. They raised their voice and told us that enough is enough. We are the Norwegian Handball Federation and we stand behind you and support you. We will continue to fight to change the international regulations for attire so that players can play in the clothing they are comfortable with."

The team's English account posted a message directly from the women's team. They lost their bronze medal match against Spain, but they were overwhelmed by the support they received from all around the world for taking a stand against a "nonsense rule."

The U.S. women’s soccer team was one of five national teams that knelt ahead of their opening matches at the 2020 Summer Games.

Great Britain and Chile teams took a knee on the pitch before their match, and the United States and Sweden teams knelt ahead of their clash on Wednesday.

The demonstrations were pre-planned and have been before various international soccer matches for more than a year to decry racism and other forms of discrimination.

At the USA-Sweden game in an empty Tokyo Stadium, at the sound of the referee's whistle, all 11 starters from both teams and the ref dropped to one knee, Yahoo Sports reported. They stayed there for about 10 seconds with pregame music still playing in the background. They then rose, and a short in-stadium countdown to kickoff commenced.

Several USWNT players have, individually and sometimes collectively, knelt to protest racism in the past. Megan Rapinoe famously became the first white woman athlete to kneel during the national anthem soon after Colin Kaepernick did in 2017. Others have joined Rapinoe in protest before national team games since Floyd was murdered in May of 2020.

All 18 USWNT players stood for the anthem on Wednesday. It's unclear if a protest during the anthem would be acceptable under the new IOC rules. (National anthems aren't played before many Olympic events — only afterward, during medal ceremonies.)

Players from Great Britain and Chile also knelt before their match on Wednesday. They were, officially, the first to stage a pre-event protest that was acceptable under IOC rules.

“As a squad, it’s been a subject that we’ve spoken about for a few weeks now," Great Britain captain Steph Houghton said Tuesday. "We feel so strongly that we want to fight all forms of discrimination and inequality, not just within sport but in the world.”

The infamous Rule 50 had long prohibited athletes from sending this type of message, and from engaging in most forms of protest at Olympic events. In January 2020, the IOC specifically barred kneeling and fist-raising, among other acts, at all Olympic venues, at any point before, during or after a competition.

But pressure from athletes who felt the rules infringed upon their freedom of expression — and especially from Black athletes, some of whom felt targeted by the guidelines — increased beginning last June. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee's Athletes Advisory Council called for an abolishment of Rule 50 last summer. The USOPC, after forming a racial and social justice council, followed in calling on the IOC to “end the prohibition of peaceful demonstrations” at the Games.

In response, the IOC staged a lengthy review of the rule, announcing at first that it would maintain the restrictions. But athletes, such as U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry, said the rules wouldn't stop them from protesting racial injustice. The IOC announced in early July that demonstrations before competitions would be allowed. However, protests during competitions and medal ceremonies are not allowed.

Before Wednesday's second soccer game at the Tokyo Stadium, New Zealand players also took a knee. Australian players stood with their arms around one another at the center circle, after earlier posing with the Australian Aboriginal Flag.

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