Monday, April 21, 2008

Black Panther Salute, 1968 Olympics: An Introduction by Mary C. Palmer

Any discussion about history must also include the manner in which history manifests itself in popular culture. It is only appropriate that this extend to the arena of sports. From local to international events, sports are often shrouded with political controversy. It is not surprising, therefore that the Olympics are often a spectacle of not only international athletic competition, but international politics as well. As Richard Stevenson said in his August 29, 2002 article in the New York Times,

“It has been a long time since anyone believed that the Olympics operated without regard to international politics. Whether it was Jesse Owens showing up Hitler at the 1936 Games in Berlin or Palestinian terrorists killing 11 Israelis in Munich in 1972 or the United States boycotting the Games in Moscow in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Olympics have been inextricably and uncomfortably linked with bigger issues.”

The most notable Olympic protests were those of 1936 in Berlin, 1968 in Mexico City, 1972 in Munich, 1980 in Moscow, and 1984 in Los Angeles.

The 1960s were by no means the beginning of the civil rights movement. Since emancipation a battle has been waged for equal rights. The 1960s did however mark a decidedly different approach to the movement. The spotlight that illuminated this struggle was elevated to new heights in the year 1968. The King assassination, the urban riots, and the Kennedy assassination were all widely televised and representative of the chaos that was America that year. Inevitably, that year’s Olympic competition would not be able to elude the frenzy of American politics. NPR reflected on this event,

“The Black Power demonstration on top of the victory stand in Mexico City in 1968 by several African-American athletes was one of the great political moments in the history of the Olympic movement," Hoberman says. "This was a way of saying, at the end of the 1960s ... that the African-Americans had had enough of domestic racism and that here was an opportunity to express their feelings about that.”

Welcome to our exploration of the events that we now refer to as history: the 1968 Olympics.

Note: Ironically, while this site was being constructed, another Olympic protest story emerged in the news: the potential protest of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Included on the link page are several articles of relevance about where athletes and companies stand on the issue of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics.


corky said...

Nice intro Nicole! As your final note makes clear, it appears that the China Olympics will be deeply affected by politics and political events.

mary said...

Thanks! (I actually wrote the intro) Nicole and I really wanted to make sure we included all of the media reactions and implications.