International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach obviously is not a fan of legendary bank robber Willie Sutton, who told a reporter that he robs banks “because that’s where the money is.”
Bach has warned Olympians set to compete at the upcoming Tokyo Games against staging political protests or issuing “divisive” statements that could take some of the luster off the sporting event that already is under siege due to COVID-19.
“The podium and the medal ceremonies are not made for a political or other demonstration,” Bach told the Financial Times. “They are made to honor the athletes and the medal winners for sporting achievement and not for their private [views].”
Bach is dead wrong. The podium and medal ceremonies are the perfect place to express one’s political point of view in front of the global media spotlight.
One of the most iconic images of the 20th century is the raised black glove fisted Black Power salute of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics at the medal podium.
That silent protest of African-Americans Smith and Carlos, gold and bronze medal winners, respectively, in the 200-meter track event, captured the world’s attention and highlighted the struggle for racial equality in the US.
Their protest was worthy of a PR gold medal.
Smith, Carlos and 200-meter Australian silver medalist Peter Norman also wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges on the podium.
Bach is naïve to think he can muzzle Olympians in 2021. He may be in for a few surprises at the podium of the Tokyo Games.
To update Sutton, Olympic athletes may use the Games to stage a protest “because that is where the global media will be at.”