Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Olympics and Politics

Like it or not, politics play a major role in the Olympic Games.  From Hitler's showcase in Berlin in 1936 to the boycotts in 1976 by African nations to the cold war boycotts in 1980 by the U.S.A. and 1984 by the U.S.S.R., politics and boycotts are part of the equation.

Some of the boycotts or protest made sense.  John Carlos and Tommie Smith actions at Mexico City come to mind as an important way to show support for civil rights.  The African boycott in 76 was flimsy.  They wanted New Zealand barred from the Games because its rugby team had played South Africa, which at the time was an international pariah because of its policy of apartheid.  South Africa couldn't compete because of its treatment of its black majority.  In fact, South Africa was barred from Olympic competition from 1964 until 1992.

The reason I bring all of this up is because of a tweet I read today from American 800 meter champion Nick Symmonds.  He questioned Saudi Arabia's policy banning women from competing at the Olympic Games.  It got me to thinking about the rights of people, regardless of color or sex.  Saudi Arabia's policy and treatment of women as second class citizens seems awfully close to South Africa's old policy of apartheid.

I believe the International Olympic Committee needs to take a long, hard, look at Saudi Arabia's policy regarding women.  If South Africa merited an Olympic ban for its treatment of blacks it would seem to me a ban of Saudi Arabia would be justified for its treatment of women.  While Saudi women may not be suffering in the way that black South Africans did for decades, they lack basic rights that should be afforded to everyone regardless of race, sex or religion.  It's time for the IOC to step up and stand up for women.

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