The sanctity of sports

  • Bend It Like Bedi
  • Sunday, 27 Jul 2014

Azizul is through to second round but he did it the hard way.

THESE days everybody is an activist – whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or out on the streets. We all have our opinions on what’s happening in the world.

Most recently, the conflict in Gaza has occupied my Facebook timeline for obvious reasons. Malaysians are rightly angry that this latest round of this never-ending conflict has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians.  

But Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (pic) brought it up a notch when he donned gloves with the words “Save Gaza” emblazoned on them during a sprint event at the current Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. 

This didn’t go down too well with the organizers of the games who let Azizulhasni off with a warning not to repeat his misdemeanour. 

Many lauded Azizulhasni for his protest, but there were many others who say that sports should never be mixed with politics.

Over the years, many sportsmen have taken their protests to sporting arenas. One of the most famous protests is the “black power salute” during the 200m medal ceremony of the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

In that highly publicised “protest” against racism, gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos, both African-Americans raised a black glove when the American national anthem was played.

They had also remained shoeless but wore black socks to represent poverty among the black community. 

The two athletes who were jeered off after the ceremony were later expelled from the games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  

The Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year saw many protests against Russia’s discriminatory laws against the LGBT community in the country.   

Of course you can take it to a much higher level by boycotting certain sports events held in countries deemed to have committed an injustice.  

The 1980 Moscow Olympics was boycotted by 65 countries including Malaysia after the USSR (the predecessor of Russia) invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s. 

In retaliation, Russia and a few Eastern European countries boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. 

Big sporting events, which are beamed to billions of people live are one of the best ways to highlight something.

Brazilians protested the incompetence of their government at the recent World Cup.

But I don’t really agree with athletes using the sporting arena for their protests. What if there are two athletes with differing views and on the same pitch or court?

What if one athlete was pro Palestinian and the other Pro Israeli?  Instead of a badminton or tennis match, we could have a boxing match going on if things got really heated up.

Or what if an athlete decided to display a facist message? Who determines what political message is wrong and what’s right?

So, the policy of sporting bodies who disallow political messages on the field is only correct. 

I can understand why people can be mad at the injustices happening but violating the sanctity of sports (if it is still sacred?) by muddling it with politics should not happen at all.  

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opinion , Bend It Like Bedi , sports , politics


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