The International Olympic Committee, an organization that brings athletes from around the globe together to compete and prove our humanity runs deeper than language and culture, has decided it wants to be smaller than that ideal.
It turns out; true understanding is way too messy.
The IOC would rather be a brand, a postcard about those lofty ideals, maybe even a slogan, but with none of the messiness that comes from discussing anything deeper than how delightful a region’s cuisine might be.
Of course, the IOC didn’t actually say all this in a press release. Instead, last week it updated the Rule 50 Guidelines to bar political, religious, and ethnic demonstrations from the podium, Olympic venues, and the Olympic village.
Keep in mind that the “demonstrations” aren’t big, sign-carrying affairs with athletes chanting for world peace, we are instead talking about a gesture, like the raised fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos back in 1968.
Those two were inducted into the USOC Hall of Fame no more distantly than last year, which led plenty to think that leaders in Olympic sport had come to value an athlete’s voice, sparingly used to highlight injustice or inequality.
“They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era,” Carlos said at the time, as reported last year by USA Today.
That was merely a year ago. This year, the IOC notes what counts as a protest, “Gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.”
Reminder: Colin Kaepernick sure scared a lot of people in power.
It turns out we are into protest nostalgia, whether it’s Smith or Muhammad Ali or Billie Jean King, but have a hard time recognizing righteousness when it’s under our literal noses.
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