The Olympics: A Fist for Freedom

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The Olympics: A Fist for Freedom

The Olympics provide a stage for the entire world to not only watch sports, but also fight for beliefs.  Yet in recent Olympic history the world has ignored the true calling of the Olympics.

The 2008 Olympics comes at a time when the first African American is running for the U.S. Presidency, Tibet is fighting for freedom from China, and Iraq is searching for its identity from the coalition, among many other world issues.  Why then has the Olympic Committee decided to hold the Olympics in China?

Given the current state of international affairs, many do not respect the decision to hold the Olympics in China. 

On the other hand, China may be the perfect place to make a political statement. 

Often, athletes in the Olympics are fighting for rights or freedoms in their home countries.  If the world believes China has violated human rights and freedoms, then what better place is there to bring the world's eyes to the attention of human injustice?  And who better to protest than the athletes themselves?

The 1968 Olympics is a perfect example of how a controversial location and an unstable international climate could lead to an everlasting memory of the human spirit and a symbol of rights and freedom for oppressed people across the globe.

Mexico City was a turbulent place when the Olympics moved in.  And 1968 was a time of wars and international unrest—America itself was fighting an internal freedom struggle. 

The Vietnam war was in full swing entering its ninth year and Martin Luther King Jr. was killed shortly before the Olympics in April of 1968. The world, alongside of America, would mourn.

Mexico City was plagued with violence.  Many young citizens of Mexico believed the Olympics was a waste of social funding and authority.  Mexican student protesters were massacred a few days before the Olympics and nearly 300 died. 

The world's eyes were on the 1968 Olympics— not only for the joy and fulfilment of watching the athletes and believing in passion but also because of the international and political climate of the time.

San Jose University African American track runners, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, understood then this was an opportunity for them to peacefully protest the injustices of the U.S. racial system and the hopelessness of human rights injustices around the world.

Smith took the gold with an impressive 19.5 second 200 meter run.  Carlos finished with a bronze.

The two solemnly walked to the podium where they were adorned with flowers and medals. Both men wore black socks with no shoes and sported human rights badges.  They climbed the podium and their black socks clashed with the white boxes beneath their feet.

Slowly the national anthem began to play.  Both men bowed their heads and proudly raised a fist encased in a black glove into the air, the black power salute. 

These men were good enough to compete for their country but were not good enough to share the liberties that other Americans enjoyed. They understood that.

They used the controversial stage set at the Mexico City Olympics to their advantage.

While they were barred from further competition in the Olympics and were not heroically received in the U.S., Carlos and Smith are looked upon as heroes of the civil rights movements and heroes of human rights around the world.

China, much like Mexico City, is a controversial place to hold the Olympics.  The Iraq war, much like the Vietnam War, is a controversial war.  The Tibetan Freedom Fight, much like the African American Freedom Fight, is one that the world is watching.

If the actions of two men in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City can be a part of the reason why an African American man can run for the 2008 presidential seat, then China is the perfect stage to set the Olympics. 

The world should not boycott the Olympics for its location—instead the world should celebrate the athletes who made the games, and the athletes should use the Olympics to make a small, yet meaningful, difference.

 

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