The Olympics serves to launch the profiles of talented athletes, unite countries in pride and recognize record-breaking athletes in their fields.

But, over the years, the Olympics has also been a platform for social justice issues with athletes using their moment in the spotlight to alert the viewing global audience to ongoing injustices. For example, in 1968 Team USA athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos rose their hands to make a Black Power fist while on the medal podium to remind viewers that even though they were Team USA athletes, Black people back at home still didn’t have fundamental civil rights.

Using the Olympics as a vehicle to raise awareness of issues continues today, most recently last week when Team GB Ladies’ football team took the knee – popularized by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick – ahead of their match with Japan (who also took the knee) to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter related causes at the 2020 Olympics. Since the death of George Floyd in 2020, taking the knee has become a mainstay for many footballers before kick-off.

Another group of athletes who recently made a political statement at the Tokyo Olympics are the German gymnastics team.

The gymnasts competed in the qualifying event in the Japanese city over the weekend, wearing full-length leotards, covering their legs and arms. The decision to deviate from the standard leotard, which covers arms but leaves the legs bare, is the result of an ongoing movement by the female athletes to protest over what they deem to be the sexualization of their sport.

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The gymnasts’ leotards were first reported on in April when they wore them to the European Championships. Gymnast Sarah Voss explained that she used to wear the shorter leotard with ease but as she grew older and went through puberty and started her period she wanted to wear a longer one to feel more comfortable.

Voss has stressed she wants the choice to be in the gymnasts’ hands, telling the BBC in April: ‘If they feel safe, they can wear a normal leotard, if they like it they can wear it as well. And if there is a certain point where they think ‘okay I might feel better in a long leotard’ they should do it… Anyone can decide whether they want to wear a long or short leotard.’

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The German gymnastics Federation also explained that when more of their gymnasts began wearing the longer leotard their gymnasts were taking a stand against the ‘sexualization of gymnastics’, especially given the prevalent issue of sexual abuse in the sport, reported the BBC at the time.

In recent years, the sport has come under scrutiny after some of the most famous gymnasts in the world from Team USA – including Simone Biles and Aly Raisman – bravely came forward to disclose they had been sexually abused by their doctor at USA Gymnastic, Larry Nassar who is now in prison serving a life sentence for his crimes.

This story originally appeared on ELLE UK

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