In 1968 was the racist-but-not-“Racist!” black “power” symbol of two medal winners pretentiously raising their fists. Thankfully there was yet enough Olympic will to strip those egoists of their medals. Later on the provocateurs tried to distance themselves from their action, reframing their clenched knuckles as human rights salutes, which to believe requires a leap of credulity which itself must qualify for some sort of Olympic award.
Another incident was the 1972 tragedy in which terrorists abducted and murdered Israeli athletes. It was clearly a racist event, but not nearly so much as a political one. For example, switch the Israeli Jews with the Tibetan Buddhists geographically and consider whether the scene wouldn’t have been one of well-conditioned monks tied up and held hostage. It was an act born of Palestinians wanting a group (whether Jews, Buddhists, or whatever) off what they considered to be their land. Race was incidental to the politics involved.
Whether current or historic, racism hasn’t been so problematic at the Games. The Olympics is more or less an exercise in classism. Often much more.
The top finishers in terms of overall medals at the Games this year were the United States, China, Russia, and Great Britain. What do these have in common? They are the nicest pieces of real estate on planet Earth. The number of non-medal nations is too long to list. Guess what they have in common? In short, if you have gold you win gold.
It wasn’t always the case. Once it was a rigidly enforced standard that the Olympics was for amateurs only. You couldn’t accept money, gratuities, or do anything but be a normal human being who was also an athlete. Even then it wasn’t perfect, but it was closer than now. Yet that was back when the Olympics meant something beyond unabashed commercialism. Such is apparently an “old-fashioned” view today. Fine by me; I prefer noble losers to pampered winners.
“Racism!” absent an implement is a meaningless dirty word. Money, on the other hand, is a weapon, an object wielded mercifully or mercilessly as the holder intends. Being called a bad name does little to diminish an athlete’s odds of winning. Being deprived of the tools to purchase time, leisure to concentrate on exercising rather than working, and being supplied the best equipment on Earth for four years drastically alters the percentages.
While there may be a few hurt feelings flying around the Olympiad, they don’t make one iota of difference compared to the billions of dollars flocking to favored nations. Whether designated athletes’ wealth is earned or unearned isn’t the question. The “Racism!” argument is supposed to be an issue of parity and fairness, of sports on an even playing field.
That ideal was in many ways approached during the Olympics’ amateur era. It is a ridiculous farce today. Perhaps some athletes should Tweet about that inherent inequality rather than trade juvenile jibes. If anyone thinks the Olympic Committee is livid when dealing with a faux social issue, wait until you see them confronted with a valid one.
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