Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Poster of the Week

Pugno Chiuso Contra il Razzismo USA
Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI)
Offset, circa 1968
Rome, Italy
Fist Closed Against Racism in the USA

Translated Text:
“Smith and Carlos at the Olympic Games
Bare feet: the poverty of the black people
Black glove: the mourning of the black people
Closed fist: the willingness to fight
The Italian Communists are with them against imperialism and racism”

CSPG’s Poster of the Week commemorates the moment from the Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos— winners of the gold and bronze medals of the 200-meter race that year—decided to use their position atop the Olympic stand to make a powerful statement about racism, inequality, and human rights. Both stood on the podium shoeless to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride. Carlos wore a string of beads to commemorate black people who had been lynched. While the U.S. National Anthem played, both raised black gloved fists and bowed their heads in solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement. Silver medal winner, Australian Peter Norman, supported their protest, and all three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges.

As stated by John Carlos in a 2011 interview with Democracy Now, “I wasn’t there for the race. I was there to actually make a statement. I was ashamed of America for America’s deeds, what they were doing in history, as well as what they were doing at that particular time.” Because of their decision to make such an overt political statement, they were ostracized when they returned home and suspended by the United States Olympic Committee. The story was also allowed to circulate by the media and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that they were stripped of their medals as a way of squelching future dissent by other athletes.

Forty-four years later, not much has changed.

The London 2012 Summer Olympics began this weekend amidst protests questioning not only the justification for spending $17 billion in preparations for the games in taxpayer money at a time when the economy is falling deeper into recession, but also questioning laws like the London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act of 2006 which suppress speech, even that deemed as a threat to corporate sponsors and Olympic symbols, by empowering not only the army and police but also private security forces to deal with broadly defined “security issues” through the use of physical force.

Some Olympians have begun to stand against this suppression of speech by the IOC by protesting Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter, which places a ban on publicizing individual athlete’s sponsors during the Games if these have not been approved as official Olympic sponsors. These athletes, like 400-meter gold metal hopeful Sanya Richards-Ross, say they want a voice in the distribution of sponsorship money that currently goes directly to the IOC. "Six billion dollars is being traded hands behind the scenes," Richards-Ross said. "I’ve been very fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in the sport, and I just think it’s unjust that they’re not being considered.”

Although protesting via Tweets is a far cry from protesting on a winner’s podium, and protesting about athletic sponsorship rights a far cry from protesting about human rights, standing against Rule 40 is still a stand against an out of touch institution which many have begun to deem the 1% of the 1%, as well as a stand against the hyper-corporatization of the Olympic Games.


1 comment:

  1. "Radiation and rockets at the London Olympics you ask? Yes, more than 7,000 tons of radioactive debris pushed just to the side to build the Olympic stadium and anti-aircraft missIes anchored on the rooftops of private London residences. War games, military and private security forces patting down the throngs at a cost of £1 billion ($1.54 billion) just for “security” alone, this is the straw which has finally broken the camel’s back for my lifetime of Olympics watching."