For whatever reason Jacques Rogge’s speech at the opening ceremonies two weeks ago has burrowed its way into my brain. Of course, Rogge said nothing controversial, but the idea that there is a ‘President’ of the International Olympic Committee at all is strange. Rogge is a de facto head of state, in the same vein as Sepp Blatter or Ban Ki Moon. The Olympics bring athletes of all colors from all corners together in the name of sport. So why then, do the Olympics implement totalitarian rules and regulations that would make some of your more contemptible world leaders blush?
There’s rule 40, an IOC regulation that forbids Olympians from shilling for their sponsors on social media during the games. On its face the rule makes sense – aiming to limit ambush marketing from the heavyweights of global business. It’s implementation however, was a disaster. Your non-Kobe’s and Lebron’s were heavily effected – 99% of athletes – because of their reliance on sponsor money to fund their dream. Lack of exposure equals fewer dollars.
Then there’s the IOC’s bizarre insistence on not holding a moment of silence for Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics. So bizarre that Bob Costas emerged as the voice of reason – Bob Costas!
This all smacks in the face of what I actually thought the Olympics were growing up. I can’t remember how many times we watched Jesse Owens provide the world’s greatest “fuck you” moment in class, but it was a lot. John Carlos and Tommie Smith – this Dave Zirin book is phenomenal – and the black power salute. The Olympics were the place to loudly proclaim whatever it was you believed in. The boycotts in 1980 and 84 – that was the Olympics.
That isn’t to say I miss the Cold War dick measuring contests that dominated the games years ago. Politicians and Government ministers patronizing us on twitter with their ‘good job, good effort’ like speech has grown tiresome. I’m OK with getting rid of things of this ilk – it’s for the best.
However, an incident involving frenemies Japan and South Korea yesterday was exactly the type of stuff that shouldn’t be suppressed by Rogge and the equally shady, FIFA.
The Skinny: On Friday South Korea beat Japan in the Men’s Football Bronze medal game. After the game Korean midfielder Park Jong-woo was handed a sign by a South Korean supporter – presumably, spies?! The sign, written in traditional Hangul, declared ‘Dokdo is our territory,” our meaning South Korea’s.
Dokdo to South Koreans or Takeshima, for the Japanese, is a set of disputed islands that are claimed by both countries. Reference a book on world history and you’ll know time has yet to heal the many wounds created decades ago. South Korean Prime Minister Lee Myung Bak visited the islands hours before Friday’s game. Talks planned between Lee and his Japanese counterpart were put in jeopardy because of the visit. The sign, coupled with the political machinations by officials back home combined to screw Park very badly.
As we know, the IOC and FIFA aren’t down with slogans of the political variety:
“The IOC and FIFA have statutes that prohibit political statements by athletes and players. Olympic officials had asked the South Korean Olympic Committee to take action against Park and that he not be present at the ceremony.”
And so he wasn’t. Park was barred from the Medal ceremony after the Gold Medal game yesterday. If the Korean Football Association had a problem with the actions of their player then so be it – suspend him. But this wasn’t them. The IOC (and their clownish step siblings FIFA) are so afraid, scared, of their games extending beyond the realm of sport they take on the role of an elementary school disciplinarian. Things aren’t ‘ok’ everywhere in this world of ours, no shit, we know this. This year was the first time at least one women was a part of each team – the first! We’ve got a long way to ago.
Let em say what they want, it’s for the best.