There is so much that the International Olympic Committee is accused of at irregular but frequent intervals of that you’d hope for it never to try and rock the boat but, watching it, you’d be forgiven for equating it with Dennis (the Menace).
It seemingly just can’t help playing up when the chips are down here, there or anywhere. At a time when George Floyd protests have broken out the world over, with its emotive core striking a responsive chord virtually everywhere, the IOC recently let it be known that it wouldn’t brook any rebellious gestures from athletes in the postponed Tokyo Games it hoped to stage next year.
At the time the announcement was made, Fifa was savouring quite a PR triumph, having told football high-ups across the globe to go easy on players taking a knee, a dictum that deviated from its customary practice of discouraging and penalising overt political or race-related or any other kind of dissent.
Floyd’s death had been such an outrage that Fifa came to be complimented on its putatively liberal outlook. The IOC, though, found it necessary to strike a different note ~ and it would certainly have anticipated an avalanche of criticism charging it with hypocrisy.
Sport and politics, it iterated, were separate, like chalk and cheese, and they wouldn’t mix. It is in the Olympic charter. Unsurprisingly, a British newspaper has called it “la la land stuff.”
The point is that it’s the arbitrary power that IOC holds ~ and soverign governments grovel before it because not to toe the official line is to be ostracised from the so-called Olympic movement ~ determines what is taboo and what is not.
It glowed with an ear-to-ear grin when the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was being run up to, references to its lofty objective of having the Dove of Korean peace flapping its wings underpinning the merry orchestration. Beijing was earlier given the Summer Games so it could get more open, flexible and tolerant.
And the IOC would have you believe there wasn’t any whiff of politics in this. But these are but superficial matters when the history of the IOC ~ and that of the Olympics ~ is gone back to. There is racism in it and there is misogyny and there also are curious examples of the IOC’s association with authoritarianism.
Andrew Jennings’ revelation of Juan Antonio Samaranch’s ~ the man who is said to have been instrumental in repackaging the Olympics for the big, new market as the IOC’s boss ~ not-so-agreeable political links is a story that calls the IOC’s facile bluff.
Even earlier, the way the IOC built itself up, with its political warp and weft, was a scandal in itself. And its ill-concealed disapproval of Floyd protests by players shows how out of touch with reality it is, thereby risking being taken seriously by anyone any more.