29 March 2008

the politics of the Olympics: the personal is political

"[T]he Olympic Games as an ideal of brotherhood and world community is passé. The Olympics is so obviously hypocritical that even the Neanderthals watching TV know what they're seeing can't be true. Even Neanderthals know that the Russians stomped the Czechs and that the Jews despise the Arabs and that racists rule the US. So, all of a sudden, the Olympics comes on TV - all this smiling and hand shaking, and even the Neanderthal has to sit up and say, "Hey, what the hell? How can that be? All year I watch nothin' but hate on TV; now they come on with the love! It's gotta be phony. The Olympics gotta be a put-on, man."
-- Harry Edwards, 1968

[emphasis added.]

Once upon a time there was something called the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

The Olympic Project for Human Rights was an organization established by sociologist Harry Edwards. The aim was to protest racial apartheid in the US and South Africa and racism in sport generally. Most members of the OPHR were African American athletes or community leaders.

Human rights? the only rights the International Olympic Committee cares about are television rights. what were they thinking when the awarded the games to China? the Chinese government promised to respect human rights, but the repression in Tibet questions this commitment given to the Olympic committee.

Here is an excerpt from Wrydbyrd's Wyrld about politics and the Olympics:

"Olympic Boycotts** (take special note of number three, below—I thought the PRC didn’t believe in making the Games political?—oh, guess that was then)

1956, Melbourne: Boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union. Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the games over the Suez Crisis.

1972 and 1976, Munich, Montreal: African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, asking it to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976. Twenty-two countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was not banned.

1976, Montreal: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) pressured Canada to bar the Taiwanese team from competing under the name Republic of China (ROC). The ROC refused the compromise that was suggested and did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

1980, 1984, Moscow, Los Angeles: Cold War opponents boycotted one anothers’ games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott reduced the number of competing nations to 81, the lowest number since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 Eastern Bloc nations (except Romania) countered by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984."

In case the photo at the top of this post is unfamiliar to you, it was 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos took their stand at the Mexico City Olympics to raise their black gloved fists in a demonstration of pride, power, and politics. Smith and Carlos were part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and they made their stand because of what was happening outside the stadium: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the growth of the Black Panthers, the May strikes in France, and the murders of 400 students and workers in Mexico City.

Afterward the International Olympic Committee said it was "a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit."

The actions of the Chinese government in Tibet are a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the human spirit.




  1. Amen.

    (P.S. Feel free to use anything you want from my site.)

  2. The idea that the Olympics are not or should not be political is ridiculous. It's a globalized event that was designed to enhance political relationships. NPR had a great piece this week on the history of Olympic boycotts. Anybody who thinks that some fabricated, BS, consumerist concept of the "Olympic Spirit" is somehow MORE IMPORTANT than protesting human rights violations... well, they should get their priorities in order.

  3. Yeah and this morning I woke up to see the Olympic torch in the infamous Tienanmen Square.

    Which of course was the sight of one of the worst crack-downs of peaceful protesters in China's modern history.

    The torch is supposed to be a symbol of goodwill amongst ALL the people of the world. Yet the Chinese government does not seem to care about goodwill in regards to many of its own people.

    Is the recent repression of protests in Tibet as a call to freedom considered, "Good Will?"

    Is the support of the brutal Burmese military junta's bloody crack-down of peaceful Buddhist monks protesting oppression considered, "Good Will?"

    The staged event in China today is even more nauseating when you consider part of the slogan for the Beijing Olympics:

    "...and together we seek for the ideal of Mankind for peace."



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