The long-suffering 2020 Tokyo Olympics seem to be doomed to high-profile political scandals. As if it is not enough that one of the leading sports powers in the world will be represented at the Games without an anthem and a flag. Now there is a risk that everyone in Japan will quarrel.
To whom should I kneel?
Ironically, the reason may again be the processes taking place recently in the United States: a fierce struggle for the rights of blacks, transgender people and other groups, raised on the shield by the Democratic Party during the presidential promotion Joe Biden…
In the sports world, what is happening has manifested itself in the form of various kneeling actions that have swept both the professional leagues of America and the football Champions League, the World Championship in Formula 1 cars, etc.
Many considered what was happening to be an outright overkill, for such an expression of solidarity began to take the form of necessarily violent actions. Residents of the post-Soviet space showed solidarity with blacks before it became mainstream: a descendant of an African Alexander Pushkin became the main poet of Russia, the film Grigory Alexandrov The “circus” castigated racial intolerance and affirmed the principle of equality of all races and peoples back in 1936, and the world colonial system that held Africa in chains collapsed in the second half of the 20th century largely thanks to the efforts of the Soviet Union and the countries of the socialist bloc.
Therefore, it is not very clear with what joy Russians, whose ancestors did not keep blacks in slavery and did not receive income from the slave trade, should take responsibility and repent for the sins of others.
Some, however, prefer to fit into new realities, as did the Russian one before the recent match between England and San Marino. football referee Kirill Levnikov, kneeling with the players of both teams.
But now the problem can reach a fundamentally new level.
An open letter signed by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) website has been published Yellow Hersland “On racial and social demonstrations.” This document defines the standards of conduct for US athletes at the Tokyo Olympics in terms of expressing their position on various issues.
“As promised, we are sharing the results of a new phase of collaboration between the Olympic Team Council for Racial and Social Justice and the USOPC. As a result, we allow athletes to respectfully express their views on these issues during the national Olympic and Paralympic qualifying competitions, ”writes Ms. Hirsland.
The bottom line is that the USOPC considers it possible for American athletes to express their position on issues of social and racial justice during the qualifying competitions, as well as directly at the Olympics itself.
In simple terms, the slogans of the BLM movement, slogans in support of transgender people, and so on may appear on the clothes of US athletes, on their headdresses at the Olympics. But, most importantly, representatives of the US Olympic movement consider it possible to express such a position directly during competitions and awards ceremonies in the form of gestures and actions.
Main article of the Olympic Charter
That is, the situation is not excluded when at the start of the final of the hundred-meter sprinters of the United States will get down on one knee. Or they will do something similar on the podium, where, by the way, not only they can be at this moment.
Now let me introduce you to Article 50 of the main document of the Olympic Movement: the Olympic Charter. Rather, with paragraph 2 of this article: “On the Olympic sites, facilities and other zones, any kind of demonstration or propaganda of a political, religious or racial nature is prohibited.”
At one time, this ban was invented by the founder of the modern Olympic movement. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who believed that sport should unite, not divide nations and races. It turned out, however, so-so: what is one Olympics-1936 in Berlin, where athletes threw up their hands in a Nazi salute. Not to mention the numerous boycotts of the Games, the most famous of which were the boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow by Western countries, as well as the retaliatory boycott of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles by the Soviet bloc.
At the 1968 Olympics, black Americans Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the award ceremony, after the 100-meter distance, they threw up their hands in black gloves as a sign of the fight against racism. This act became, perhaps, the most famous case of political protest of athletes in the framework of the Games. At the same Games, the Czechoslovak gymnast Vera Chaslavska decided to protest against the introduction of troops of the Warsaw Pact countries into the country, turning away while singing the anthem of the USSR.
Demarches happened later. For example, in 2008, the Georgian Olympic team was going to leave the Olympics in Beijing in protest against the “Russian aggression” in South Ossetia. But they did not risk it, since the International Olympic Committee promised an 8-year disqualification for such a thing.
The heavy share of the heir to Samaranch
Draconian sanctions for political protests and demarches pushed through at the time Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee… Having come to his post in 1980, in the midst of the deepest crisis of the Olympic movement, the Spaniard realized: if now tough sanctions are not introduced for political actions around the Olympics, then the Games themselves will soon go down in history.
But two decades after the departure of Samaranch, the current IOC Head Thomas Bach got into a difficult situation. Not only was he terribly pressured because of the “doping case” of Russia. Not only that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all the usual schedules and the Games in Tokyo will be held a year later, with numerous restrictions and without foreign spectators. Now they risk becoming a festival for fans of political protest.
The campaign for amending Article 50 of the Olympic Charter by the United States and a number of other Western countries has been going on for a long time. The head of the IOC promises to consider the issue, but no decisions have been made yet.
Games will never be the same?
And now the representatives of the United States, in fact, present the IOC with a fact: they have allowed their athletes to express their point of view and will not be punished for this in the new framework.
“Well, what happens if Americans say at the Olympics that black lives matter and get down on one knee?” – you may ask.
The problem is that being half pregnant in this matter will not work. The number of those wishing to express their political position on this or that issue will grow like an avalanche.
If it is possible for the Americans, then wait for the greetings from the Ukrainian delegation on the topic of Crimea and Donbass. It is not excluded that the athletes of Armenia will say something about Nagorno-Karabakh and immediately receive a corresponding answer from Azerbaijanis and Turks. Serbs have something to say about Kosovo and so on ad infinitum.
The principle “This is different” will not work here. If political actions become permissible within the framework of the Olympics, then you won’t shut up anyone. And if the IOC issues something in the spirit of “all are equal, but transgender people are more equal”, allowing to express a position on one issue and forbidding to speak on another, there is a risk that Samaranch’s nightmare about the collapse of the Olympic movement in its modern form will come true.
Thomas Bach can only sincerely sympathize. And stocking up on popcorn: there seems to be incredible fun ahead of us.