Chinese athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are under investigation for wearing pins that honor communist leader Mao Zedong

Chinese athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are under investigation for wearing pins that honor communist leader Mao Zedong
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Chinese medalists
Shanju Bao and Tianshi Zhong of Team China poses with the gold medal after the Women's team sprint finals of the Track Cycling on day 10 of the Tokyo Olympics 2021 games at Izu Velodrome on August 02, 2021 in Izu, Shizuoka, Japan. Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
  • Two chinese athletes at the Tokyo Olympics appear to have worn pins that reference Mao Zedong.

  • Zedong led China's communist revolution and was known to violate human rights against his people.

  • The IOC is investigating, as it violates its policy against public protests during the games.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two Chinese gold medalists were seen wearing pins that featured Communist China's founding leader Mao Zedong on Monday.

Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi won gold at the women's sprint in track cycling, then during the medal ceremony, they were seen with the Zedong pins on their track jackets.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be investigating the matter, according to a spokesperson.

"We have contacted the Chinese Olympic Committee, asked them for a report about the situation," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The IOC announced that athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics are prohibited from using the events or medal ceremonies to protest social or political issues but still left the door open for protests by leaving discipline in the hands of each country's respective Olympic committee.

The Mao pins breach Olympic Charter Rule 50, but Shanju and Tianshi will only face discipline if the Chinese Olympic Committee chooses to instill it.

Mao imagery has become symbolic in China over the past six decades as a testament to the economic and cultural reforms he brought to the nation in the 1960s and 1970s. However, he is also vilified for his communist beliefs and millions of deaths during his reign.

His likeness is still widely celebrated by the Chinese mainstream today. China's current party chief Xi Jinping has often tried to reflect Mao's image to promote his status as a transformative Chinese leader.

Shanju and Tianshi wouldn't be the first Olympic athletes to disregard the IOC's policy against social and political protest.

American athletes have also used their Olympic platform to demonstrate and won't face any discipline for it. Last year, the United States Olympic Committee announced that it wouldn't punish athletes who use their platform to protest.

Several American women's soccer players took a knee during the national anthem of multiple Olympic matches in Tokyo, and shot-put silver medalist Raven Saunders crossed the wrists of her raised arms on the podium on Sunday to 'mark the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.'

China currently has the most gold medals of any country at the Olympics this year with 32, while the United States sits in second place with 24.

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