By: ERNESTO V. FERNÁNDEZ DOMÍNGUEZ
In good faith, one could think that sport should ignore the political ups and downs that the planet suffers from periodically. I consider myself among those who have good feelings about the ideals of the sport of equality and healthy competition. It should be like this; but in practice it is not.
The ideal of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern-day Olympics, was sports competition under the sign of peace, unity and brotherhood, but because of the changing reciprocal relationship between sport and political, ideological or war conflict, that ideal has become a chimera.
The case of Jesse Owens comes to mind, the award-winning black athlete, native of Alabama, United States, grandson of slaves, who, still marked by poverty and racism, won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics against the wrinkled Hitler. face. The medals are considered the most politicized in history.
Why? I told them. Before competition began on Nazi soil, leaders of the United States Olympic Committee “advised” Owens to keep a low profile, not to make shrill gestures in support of the black race and never to talk about politics. No comment.
Owens is not a single case. In 1968, during the Mexican Olympics, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, first and third place in the 200 meters, saluted Black Power on the award podium. What does the US Olympic Committee do, under IOC pressure? He returns them home.
There was also an incident involving Colin Kaepernick, a black professional soccer player. What I will share with you happened in 2016.
As was customary before the start of sporting events, the national anthem was played and Kaepernick, in protest against racial segregation, instead of standing and singing the national anthem, crouched down with his right knee on the ground and did not want to get up. .
For that attitude, Kaepernick was expelled from the National Football League – the largest in the United States – for being unpatriotic. He even received death threats as well as scathing criticism, especially from Donald Trump. He could never play again.
The Olympics are not free from political antagonisms
The famous Olympic boycott. We won’t list them all, of course. Just a few examples. In 1956, because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to sanction British and French athletes after Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt for nationalizing the Suez Canal; these countries, Lebanon and Iraq did not attend the XVI Games in Australia. In the same international battle, the People’s Republic of China refused to participate together with Taiwan because it considered the island an inalienable part of its national territory.
Prior to the 1976 XXI Olympics, to be held in Montreal, Canada, several African countries asked the IOC to exclude New Zealand for having played a game of rugby with a team from South Africa, a country that had been excluded from the Olympic movement. for its racial segregation policy. As the IOC rejected the request, the 28 countries on the Continent, which was added Guyana and Iraq, decided not to participate in the competition.
In 1980, in response to the Soviet military incursion into Afghanistan at the request of the latter government, 65 countries boycotted the XXII Olympics held in Moscow. Four years later, in response, the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, with the exception of Romania, did not attend the Los Angeles Olympics.
February 24 of this year arrived and most of the world put its hands on its head: Russia invaded Ukraine!, he said. A symphony of sanctions was then released against the Slavic nation with the orchestra bat in the hands of the United States.
In the “all-inclusive” anti-Russian penalties are those conceived for the sports area. Four days after the start of the war, the International Football Federation (FIFA) eliminated Russia from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The IOC recommends, on its part, to exclude all Russian athletes from any competition. The same agency also recommended repealing the Olympic Order from President Vladimir Putin.
International boxing and swimming institutions have suspended all competitions due to be held in Russia. At the volleyball world championships, which will take place between August 26 and September 11, France and Poland have threatened not to compete if the Eurasian nation remains in the competition. For its part, the International Hockey Federation indefinitely eliminated the Russian and Belarusian teams; while Vladimir Putin, a judo practitioner, was suspended as honorary president and ambassador of the sport’s International Federation.
Hysteria has reached Formula 1: the Russian Grand Prix car test, held in Sochi, is suspended; and the International Tennis Federation announced that Russia and Belarus will be excluded from international team tournaments, such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. In both competitions, Russia is the current champion.
The International Athletics Federation announced, for its part, that it will not allow athletes, coaches and officials from Russia and Belarus to participate in any competitions of the World Athletics Series, which includes the world championships in athletics in Oregon, Belgrade Indoor and teams. walking in Oman, this time of year.
Basketball also has its share of heartburn. The Euroleague decided to suspend Russian clubs indefinitely, so franchises such as CSKA Moscow, UNICS Kazan and Zenit St Petersburg will not be able to participate in the tournament.
The conflict affects sponsorship in the same way: The Union of European Football Federations, the sport’s governing body in Europe with 55 national federations, severed ties with Gazprom, one of the main sponsors since 2012.
Likewise with the German team Schalke 04.
The famous English football group Manchester United got rid of its ties to the airline Aeroflot, while Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich could not continue to live in Great Britain and “handed over” the administration of Chelsea.
Down to small
Just 24 hours before the start of the Winter Paralympics in Beijing (4-13 March), the International Committee governing this type of gathering decided to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating. Making the hammer of sanctions also fall on physical-motor, visual or other limitations, more than political revenge, becomes a petty attitude.
Let’s continue. The ridiculousness doesn’t stop at the Beijing Paralympics. Potential Russian and Belarusian athletes who wish to participate in any competition are now required to relinquish their flags and compete on their own behalf.
On the other hand, North American video game company Electronic Arts threatened on March 2 that it would withdraw the Russian National Team and all its clubs from the “FIFA 22” game. EA Sports, the entertainment marketing division of the company, announced that CSKA, Spartak and Lokomotiv, all from Moscow, are the teams to be leaving for the first time.
Do you think you have seen, heard or read all about media overload or political attacks on Russia? Let me add one more touch: as I write this line, in Germany the use of the Z in any advertisement, poster or logo, be it sporting or not, has been banned, as it is a symbol that identifies Russian tanks on ships. Ukrainian front! !
You may remember; but I don’t remember any sanctions or negative propaganda against US athletes when soldiers from these countries stepped on the soil of Dominica, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. I also don’t remember that the IOC or any other sporting organization ever talked about it.
After all, all this anti-Russian commotion reminds me of when the great Jesse Owens had what he had to do or say whispered in his ear. But as we know, Owens went ahead and won.
“Amateur analyst. Zombie geek. Hardcore troublemaker. Internet expert. Incurable twitter fanatic.”