Back on January 14th of this year, the International Olympic Committee instituted a new policy that they hoped would quell the problem of protesting against countries. They announced on that date that any Olympian that protested political, religious, or ethnic situations through any sort of demonstration would be banned from further competition. Actually, when you take into account what the Olympics is supposed to be, this isn’t a bad ruling.
My only question is, where is the IOC when it came to Megan Rapinoe and her friend kneeling during the national anthem during their soccer matches? That most certainly is a protest. Yet, they were allowed to play and nothing has happened to them.
And it got me wondering, just how many athletes from around the world are protesting their own country? I haven’t been watching much of the Olympics, so I can’t say I’m anywhere of an authority here, but has anyone seen another athlete from another country protesting something their home country is doing (or not doing)?
It has happened in the past. In fact, the history of protests be it civil, religious or ethnic, is relatively short. Peter O’Connor was the first such protest way back in 1906, when he scaled a flag pole and waved an Irish flag. Back then you had to have a national Olympic committee that put the teams together, and Ireland had none, so Britain claimed O’Connor as part of their team. He wasn’t happy about that. The Irish at the time were embroiled in their battle for independence.
I figure the next protest came in Mexico City in 1968 when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in a black power salute at the medal ceremony. That stunt did have consequences. Both Carlos and Smith were kicked out of the Olympic Village, kicked off the US Olympic team, and sent home.
Also, back in 1968, Czech gymnast, Věra Čáslavská, turned her head during the medal ceremony away from the Soviet Union’s flag. Two months earlier the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia. She wasn’t sent home, but had to retire from gymnastics, and worked as a cleaning woman for 20 years. She was not allowed to coach gymnastics, and was only welcomed back into the sport after the fall of the Soviet Union.
I guess if you’re talking about protests, you’d have to include Jimmy Carter in the mix. Carter to protest the Soviet Union sending troops into Afghanistan, boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow. Canada, West Germany, and Japan joined the US. Of course, Moscow got revenge in 1984, when the games came to Los Angeles. They boycotted the Olympics that year, as did several of their satellite countries.
And as recently as 2004, Iranian judo champion, Arash Miresemaeili, refused to fight an opponent from Israel to support the Palestinian plight. In October, 2019, Iran was banned from international judo competition for refusing to fight Israel opponents. Iran hasn’t recognized Israel as a country since 1979.
And while there were some instances of consequence for some of the protesters, nothing has happened to the US Women’s Soccer team for their cowardly display. I’m waiting IOC. Either you have the balls to make such a decision and keep the Olympics free from politics and protests, or you’re not. Which is it?
Carry on world…you’re dismissed!