Olympic Games history, new book


This video from the USA says about itself:

John Carlos, 1968 Olympic U.S. Medalist, on the Sports Moment That Changed The World. 1 of 2

12 October 2011

Almost half a century after his famous raised-fist salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Carlos has authored a new memoir with sports writer Dave Zirin, “The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World.” Olympic medal winners in the 200 meter race, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in the Black Power salute during the national anthem at the Olympic prize ceremony as a protest against racism in the United States.

Seen around the world, the Black Power salute on the Olympic medal stand sparked controversy and an eventual career fallout. “I wasn’t in there for the race, I was there to make a statement,” Carlos told Democracy Now! in an interview Oct. 12 with Dave Zirin. “I was ashamed of America for America’s deeds — what they were doing in history as well as what they were doing at that time.”

This video is the sequel.

By Jamie Johnson in Britain:

How Olympic ideal became corrupted

Tuesday 26th April 2016

Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics
by Jules Boykoff
(Verso, £11.99)

THE OLYMPIC Games have not always been the commercialised economic and undemocratic juggernaut of modern times which, awash with corporate sponsorship, rides roughshod over host communities.

But, historically, it has been a clandestine, elite-driven organisation with regressive policies, a huge price tag and ever-strengthening ties to capitalism.

The St Louis games of 1904 were even bedevilled by so-called “anthropology days,” with events rigged to test racist hypotheses showing that “savages” were inferior.

Women’s participation in track and field events shamefully lagged behind the introduction of female suffrage.

Fortunately, the Olympics’ chequered history has been accompanied by a catalogue of progressive radical protest.

Pre-empting Tommy Smith and Don Carlos’s black power salute at their medal ceremony in Mexico 1968, Irish athlete and staunch nationalist Peter O’Connor — selected to represent Britain— climbed the flagpole to rip down the union flag and fly his Irish alternative after winning silver in the Athens 1906 long jump. Suffragettes targeted the golf tournament at London’s 1908 games.

In developing his theory of “celebration capitalism,” which gives the mainstream media something to cheer about every four years, Boykoff firmly places the five-ringed circus as a central cog in a destructive neoliberal machine and finds much to admire in the alternative, yet short-lived, International Workers’ Olympiads.

And he demonstrates how the Olympics are an incredible but fundamentally unsustainable sporting event, an over-budget corporate franchise purchased with public money, directly transferring wealth to private hands.

British taxpayers footed 88 per cent of London 2012’s costs but received few positive long-term benefits. When even The Economist claims that hosting the Olympics is bad for a city’s health, something is clearly wrong.

Enjoyable and informative, Power Games is an even more relevant read in the build-up to this summer’s first-ever Latin American Olympics.

Disabled Syrian refugee will carry Olympic torch


This video says about itself:

Disabled Syrian Refugee to Carry Olympic Torch

22 April 2016

A victim of the war in Syria will take part in the Olympic torch relay in Greece to raise awareness of the plight of refugees from his homeland.

Race, film about athlete Jesse Owens


This october 2015 video from the USA is called Race Official Trailer #1 (2016) Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis Biographical Drama Movie HD.

By Alan Gilman and David Walsh in the USA:

Race: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics

10 March 2016

Directed by Stephen Hopkins; written by Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse

Race chronicles the storied athletic career of Jesse Owens, which culminated in his four gold medal performance at the 1936 Nazi-sponsored Berlin Olympics.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins, the film begins in 1933 with a young Owens (Stephan James) arriving at Ohio State University to run track. Owens is immediately confronted with racial bigotry, particularly from members of the all-white football team.

His track coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), recognizes Owens as an extraordinary talent. Snyder impresses on the youthful athlete that if he demonstrates single-minded, fanatical focus he will be unstoppable, not only on the college level, but also at the 1936 Olympic Games to be held in Berlin.

Owens follows Snyder’s advice, despite the pressures of fatherhood (he has a baby daughter with his girlfriend, Ruth Solomon (Shanice Branton). He quickly becomes a top collegiate track athlete, and in 1935 at a meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan performs the astonishing feat of breaking three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220 low hurdles) and tying a fourth (100-yard dash) in 45 minutes. This is widely considered one of the greatest single-day performances in athletic history.

Meanwhile, a campaign is underway within the American Olympic Committee, led by Judge Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt), to boycott the Berlin Games because of Nazi racism and anti-Semitism.

Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a builder and real estate developer, and future International Olympic Committee president, leads the anti-boycott forces. Brundage shrugs off Germany’s anti-Semitic and racial issues, “It’s not our place to tell a sovereign nation what to do, and besides, when was the last time any of you nay-voters socialized with a Jew or a Negro?”

To help resolve this dispute Brundage agrees to embark on a fact-finding mission to Germany and meets with Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), the Nazi propaganda minister, who “promises” the Germans will not discriminate against any athlete, including Jews. With this agreement in hand, Brundage is able to defeat the boycott forces by a vote of 58 to 56.

Later, during the Olympics, when the Germans break their promise not to discriminate, Goebbels quickly puts an end to Brundage’s feeble protests by threatening to expose a commercial agreement—essentially a bribe—the two parties have entered into.

Other groups, including the NAACP, continue to support boycotting the Olympics, and place pressure on Owens. Ultimately, with the support of his family, he decides to go to the 1936 Games.

In Berlin, Owens is surprised to find that within the Olympic Village the American athletes are housed in integrated housing, something that never occurred in the US. Outside the Olympic venue, however, we see scenes of Jews being beaten and rounded up by the Nazis.

Owens proceeds to win four gold medals, in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter race, long jump and 400-meter relay. He is the most successful, and wildly popular, athlete at the Games and is credited with having delivered a devastating blow to the Nazi myth of “Aryan supremacy.”

In one of the more poignant scenes in the film, German long jumper Carl “Luz” Long (David Kross), the European champion, befriends Owens. After Owens fouls on the first two of his three attempts to qualify for the long jump, Long marks a spot several inches in front of the takeoff board, pointing out to Owens that if he takes off from there he will still jump far enough to qualify. Owens does just that and then goes on to defeat Long, who wins the silver medal.

Long is the first to congratulate Owens after the event, shaking his hand. The pair pose for photos and run a victory lap together.

That evening Long explains to Owens that he detests the Nazis for what they are doing and that many other Germans feel the same. At the end of Race there is an acknowledgement that Owens and Long continued their friendship for several more years and that the German athlete was killed in Sicily during World War II.

Owens’ last race is the 4 x 100 relay, an event that he has not trained for and is not scheduled to run. He participates because the team’s only two Jewish athletes, Marty Glickman (Jeremy Ferdman) and Sam Stoller (Giacomo Gianniotti), are benched at the last minute, on the demand of the German authorities. (Glickman went on to become one of the most prominent and talented American sportscasters in the postwar period, the voice of several New York sports teams, only retiring in 1992.)

As the film ends, a title notes that Owens was never invited to the White House or congratulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

There are some valuable elements and moving moments in Race. The story of Owens’ accomplishments, in the face of considerable odds, inevitably touches on some significant historical questions.

Jesse Owens was the youngest of 10 children born to Mary Emma Fitzgerald and Henry Cleveland Owens, a sharecropper, in Oakville, Alabama. His impoverished family took part in the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West, moving to Cleveland’s east side in the early 1920s. Owens’ father and older brother worked in steel mills, the former only irregularly.

As the result of his athletic prowess, Owens stumbled onto the stage of world politics in the 1930s. The opposition of Avery Brundage, head of the Olympic movement in the US, to a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, held under the aegis of the Nazi regime, had a significant ideological and political content.

Historian Carolyn Marvin explains that the foundation of Brundage’s world outlook “was the proposition that Communism was an evil before which all other evils were insignificant.” His other views or beliefs included “admiration for Hitler’s apparent restoration of prosperity and order to Germany,” the conception “that those who did not work for a living in the United States were an anarchic human tide, and a suspicious anti-Semitism which feared the dissolution of Anglo-Protestant culture in a sea of ethnic aspirations.” Brundage described opposition to American participation in Berlin as a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy.”

The vile machinations of the Hitler regime in regard to the Olympics are also part of the historical record. The leading Nazi newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, editorialized in the strongest terms that no Jews or blacks from any country should be permitted to compete. Faced with the possibility of an international boycott, however, the Nazi government relented, even adding one token participant, a female fencer with a Jewish father, to the German team.

The fascist regime also temporarily took down signs denouncing Jews from areas of Berlin where visitors were likely to see them. The German Ministry of the Interior instructed the city’s police to round up all Romani as part of a “clean up” and place them in a concentration camp. Pro-Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl was in charge of filming the Olympics (she is portrayed ambiguously in Race by Carice van Houten), and produced her grandiose two-part documentary, Olympia (1938).

Racism and the Depression in the US, fascism and anti-communism, the run-up to the Second World War … big issues all of them.

Hopkins’ Race refers directly to a few of these questions, hints at others and merely side-steps another category.

The film suffers from a generally formulaic approach. James and Branton as Jesse Owens and Ruth Solomon are given little dramatic room to breathe. Their conventional, roller-coaster relationship does not shed much light on their personalities or the nature of the times. Nor does Owens’ affair with a woman he meets on the road as a now-famous athlete or his relations with his coach help out much. There is something hagiographic about the presentation of Owens in particular, although certain of his failings come in for treatment.

The general dramatic arc of Race is predictable—initial difficulties, first successes, crisis and failure, final triumph. Even if the viewer did not know ahead of time how Owens would ultimately fare in Berlin, he or she would have little difficulty in seeing what was coming.

Sudeikis is more impressive as Snyder. The actor-comic has performed amusingly in a number of works, but smugness (for example, in the Horrible Bosses films) has threatened to sabotage his efforts. Here he is relatively convincing as Owens’ hard-driven, but fair-minded coach. Irons is always on the mark, although the portrayal of Brundage is not as devastating as it might have been. Kross (The Reader) is memorable as Luz Long, as is Metschurat as the menacing, monstrous Goebbels and Andrew Moodie, in a small part, as Owens’ long-suffering father.

To its credit, the film is not laced with identity politics, but a more “old fashioned” liberal humanism. Race, despite its title, preaches a sort of solidarity of Jews, blacks and anti-Nazi Germans against Hitler and pro-fascist Americans.

There are distinct limitations to this approach. Hopkins’ presentation of various racist and anti-Semitic incidents, although moving, is largely devoid of any historical content or deeper understanding of the social forces involved.

The weakest aspect of Race is its attitude to the various questions of political or moral principle that arise: the first involves US participation or boycott of the Berlin Olympics; the second, Owens’ decision to go or stay home; and, finally, the exclusion of the Jewish athletes from the relay race and the response of the rest of the American Olympic team.

In each case, Hopkins and screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse create justifications for the various, often self-serving decisions taken by the characters, thus allowing the narrative to move forward toward its inexorable conclusion.

Bahraini torture prince investigated by British police?


This video about London, England is called Bahraini Prince Nasser loses diplomatic immunity over protester torture claims.

By James M. Dorsey, Senior fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore:

Bahrain rattled by UK court’s opening of door to investigation of torture allegations

Posted: 10/21/2014 7:00 am EDT

A failed effort by a public relations company representing Bahrain and a UK law firm acting on behalf of Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guard and head of its National Olympic Committee, to micromanage media coverage of this month’s lifting of the prince’s immunity by a British court reflects mounting unease in the island state and international sporting associations. The court decision opens the door to a British police investigation into whether or not Prince Nasser was involved in the torture of political detainees that could include three former players for the Bahraini national soccer team.

The five-day long effort by UK-based Bell-Yard Communications Ltd and London law firm Schillings was aimed at forcing this writer as well as The Huffington Post to adopt Bahrain’s narrow and partial interpretation of the court decision. That interpretation involved an inaccurate assertion that no investigation into whether or not Prince Nasser had been involved in torture of detainees could emerge from the court decision, that immunity had not been part of the grounds on which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had initially refused to investigate, and that soccer players had not[h]ing to do with the investigation.

The lawyers and PR representatives appeared particularly concerned about the assertion that the investigation could involve soccer players presumably because of the implications that could have for Prince Nasser’s Olympic status as well as that of a relative of his, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, the prince’s number two at the Bahrain Olympic Committee and the island state’s Supreme Council for Youth and Sport.

The UK High Court lifted Prince Nasser‘s immunity in a case initiated by several Bahrainis who alleged that they were tortured in the aftermath of a popular uprising in Bahrain in 2011 that was brutally squashed by Saudi-backed security forces. The Bahrainis went to court after the CPS had refused to issue an arrest warrant for the prince on the grounds that his status in Bahrain granted him immunity in the UK. The prosecution said further that evidence submitted had been insufficient to justify an investigation. Because Prince Nasser was not a party to the proceedings, he had no opportunity to respond to the allegations in court.

The lawyers and PR representatives sought to have removed any reference in this writer’s article to a potential investigation or that immunity had played a role in the CPS’s thinking despite the fact that the prosecution in a statement to the court agreed to the lifting of Prince Nasser’s immunity in expectation that the Bahraini plaintiffs would submit further evidence. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said after the court hearing that the ruling opened the door to an investigation and that they would be providing additional evidence.

This writer corrected after publication a factual error in the original story. The story originally reported that an investigation had been opened rather than that the court ruling opened the door to an enquiry.

Nonetheless, in attempting to prevent fair and honest reporting, the lawyers and PR agents contradicted themselves. The attempt to force deletions that would have substantially altered the core of the story occurred despite the fact that Bell’s Melanie Riley had provided to this writer the statement of the prosecution to the court.

The prosecution said in the statement that “in the light of the Claimant’s intention to submit further evidence to the police (who are responsible for investigating the allegations), the Crown Prosecution Service has agreed to state to the police its view that immunity should not be a bar to any such investigation on the evidence currently available.”

Bahraini concern that the possible fallout of the court decision could affect not only Prince Nasser but also Sheikh Salman was evident in an email from Ms. Riley assertion that “there is no relevance to the AFC of yesterday’s proceedings.”

Sheikh Salman, according to information submitted to the prosecution, headed a committee established in 2011 by a decree by Prince Nasser to take measures against those guilty of insulting Bahrain and its leadership. Prince Nasser formed the committee after an earlier royal decree had declared a state of emergency. The royal decree allowed the Bahrain military to crackdown on the protests and establish military courts, according to the information provided to the prosecutor.

Sheikh Salman, a former soccer player who also serves as head of the Bahrain Football Association, is running next year in AFC presidential elections, which if he wins would give him an automatic seat on the executive committee of world soccer body FIFA.

The prosecutor was further furnished with a publicly available video clip in which Prince Nasser called for the punishment on television of those including athletes who participated in anti-government demonstrations. More than 150 athletes and sports officials, including the three national soccer players, were arrested or dismissed from their jobs at the time. Many have since been reinstated.

The failed Bahraini effort to micromanage reporting of Prince Nasser’s case, involving insinuations that this writer’s report was defamatory and demands that their unsolicited correspondence to a US publisher not be reported on, reflects greater sensitivity to image and reputation of Gulf states that also include the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, who stand accused of violations of human and labour rights. All three states have been put to varying degrees under the magnifying glass because of their hosting of major events, including the 2022 World Cup, the 2020 World Expo, Formula-1 races and ambitions to host similar events like the Olympic Games as well as their association with prominent educational and cultural institutions such as New York University and the Guggenheim Museum.

The various states have used different strategies to counter allegations of violations of human and labour rights. While Qatar has by and large engaged with its critics, Bahrain and the UAE have sought to prevent negative reporting by barring critical journalists and academics from entering their country.

Qatar, despite its engagement with human rights groups and trade unions, has not been immune to such tactics. Saleem Ali, a former visiting fellow at the Qatar-funded Brookings Doha Center, told The New York Times that he was advised during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government. At the same time, Qatar has sought to win hearts and minds in the United States with the establishment of Al Jazeera America, part of its global television network, and the expansion in the US of its belN sports television franchise.

Qatar’s strategy backfired when Britain’s Channel Four disclosed that the Gulf state had hired Portland Communications founded by Tony Allen, a former adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister, to create a soccer blog that wrongly claimed to be “truly independent” and represent “a random bunch of football fans, determined to spark debate,” but in fact served to attack its detractors.

For its part, the UAE has spent lavishly on public relations engaging, according to The Intercept, a US firm to demonize Qatar because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. The UAE is also suspected of supporting a network of Norway and France-based human rights groups that sought to project the Emirates as a champion of human rights despite crackdowns that have involved political trials denounced by international human rights groups and derided Qatar’s record.

Disclosing the UAE’s efforts to shape reporting in the US media, The Intercept noted that “the point here is not that Qatar is innocent of supporting extremists… The point is that this coordinated media attack on Qatar – using highly paid former U.S. officials and their media allies – is simply a weapon used by the Emirates, Israel, the Saudis and others to advance their agendas.”

Bahrain: The verdict on Nabeel Rajab‘s trial expected on October 29: here.