Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Poster of the Week

Gay Olympic Games
Artist Unknown
Silkscreen, 1982
San Francisco, CA

Of the many ongoing controversies surrounding the 22nd Winter Olympic Games taking place in Sochi, Russia’s anti-gay laws criminalizing and marginalizing the LGBTQ communities continue to be one of the most widely protested.  While it’s easy to point the finger at homophobic Russians, the U.S. has a long history of discrimination against people in the LGBTQ communities. The Gay Olympics was launched in San Francisco in 1982.  Less than three weeks before the start of the Gay Olympics, event organizers were sued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) which claimed that the USOC had exclusive rights to the word Olympic in the United States. Defendants in the lawsuit contended that the law was capriciously applied and that if the Nebraska Rat Olympics and the Police Olympics did not face similar lawsuits, neither should the Gay Olympics. Many believed that homophobia was a motivation behind the lawsuit. After the ruling blocked the use of the name "Gay Olympic Games," they became known—and continue to be known—as the Gay Games.  This poster was made before the ruling.

Despite the popular myth that the Olympics celebrate the skill, talent and dedication of the athletes, the Olympics have always been primarily about political and financial wheeling and dealing.  For those who have doubts, please consider the following:

1936 – Hitler intended that the Berlin Olympics would demonstrate the supremacy of Nazi ideology. After African American Jesse Owens won four gold medals and set two world records, Hitler’s propaganda mission suffered a serious blow.  Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were the only two Jews on the American track and field team who went to the Berlin Olympics. They were scheduled to run in the 4 x 100 meter relay event but their coach, Dean Cromwell, pulled them at the last minute partly because of anti-Semitism and partly because Cromwell and Avery Brundage, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, didn't want to offend or embarrass their Nazi hosts by having two American Jews on the winning podium.  Earlier, Brundage had opposed a boycott of the Berlin Olympics, arguing that politics had no place in sport. 

1956 The Soviet Union sent more than 200,000 soldiers to put down a nationalist uprising in Hungary. The Hungarian water polo team fled the country during the uprising, and made their way to the Melbourne Olympics. When they faced off against the Soviet water polo team, the match was violent, with both teams trading blows in the pool.

1968 – The Olympic Games were held in Mexico City. Ten days before the opening, the Mexican military fired on student protesters, killing hundreds.  This became known as the Tlatelolco massacre.  After winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meters, African Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos received their medals on the podium shoeless but wearing black socks to symbolize black poverty, black scarves to symbolize black pride, and a single black glove on a hand raised in salute.  They had their metals taken away, received death threats and were ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment.

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

Fist Closed Against Racism in the USA
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

1972 – The Munich Olympics were the first Games held in Germany since Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Games.  The West German government hoped to present to the world the democratic and optimistic West Germany.  Instead, 11 Israeli athletes were killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September who had originally intended to exchange the Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.  After a one-day suspension, the Games continued.  Following the Games, the Israeli government launched Operation Wrath of God and Operation Spring of Youth to track down and kill those responsible for the massacre.

1980 – When the U.S. and Soviets were fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter led a 62 nation boycott of the Soviet Olympics.

1984 – The Soviets retaliated to the 1980 boycott by leading a 14 nation boycott of the Olympics in Los Angeles.

Official Olympics Police State
Fireworks Graphics
Silkscreen, 1984
Los Angeles, California

This poster decries the militarization of Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics, when officials invoked heightened security measures in response to later discredited reports that the city faced a threat of terrorist action that would be comparable to the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.   


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