TOKYO, Japan — Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado ended her floor routine in Olympic qualifying on one knee, her head back and her right fist thrust straight into the air.
The 18-year-old said the closing of her routine was choreographed in homage to the Black Lives Matter movement that spread around the world after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis last summer. Alvarado said Friday after she performed the same move at training that she hoped to highlight the importance of equal rights on a global stage, and champion treating all with respect and dignity.
“Because we’re all the same,” she said, “and we’re all beautiful and amazing.”
The International Olympic Committee has implemented rules to try to limit protest actions by athletes. But Alvarado’s gesture, incorporated into her artistic routine, is unlikely to trigger repercussions.
Sunday’s routine will be her only turn on the Olympic stage: Alvarado scored a 12.166 on the floor and will not qualify to move forward to finals.
Players from the United States, Sweden, Chile, Britain and New Zealand women’s soccer teams went to a knee before their games that kicked off the Tokyo Olympics, anti-racism gestures the likes of which had not been seen before on the Olympic stage. They figured to be the first of many of these sort of demonstrations over the three-week stay in Tokyo.
The Olympic rule banning such demonstrations at the Games has been hotly debated and contested for decades, and those issues reached a flashpoint over the past two years. What resulted were changes in the rules, and the willingness of some sports organizations to enforce them.