Today marks the 48th anniversary of the one of the Olympic Games' most famous moments: the Black Power salute of John Carlos and Tommie Smith in Mexico City, 1968. This extract from Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics details the context of the salute, as well as its consequences for Smith and Carlos, and the Games as a whole.
Jules Boykoff, in Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics, surveys the Olympic Games of the Cold War era following the Soviet Union's return to the IOC at the 1952 Helsinki Games. As the meaning and structure of Olympic competition became increasingly distorted around First–Second World antagonism, an alternative emerged with the 1963 Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), held in Indonesia and launched by President Sukarno.
"But, like the alternative Games that preceded it," Boykoff concludes,
this “new sports grouping” didn’t last long. Organizers planned GANEFO II to take place in Cairo in 1967, but the financial burden of staging the competition, along with Sukarno’s overthrow by Suharto in 1966, sapped the energy from the movement. GANEFO II was never to be. But the Games of the New Emerging Forces demonstrated that the Olympics — and sport more generally — are eminently political. Alternative models for organizing sport along political lines were indeed possible.
Historian and sports scholar Russell Field is working on a book-length history of GANEFO and recently contributed an article on the 1963 games to Sport, Protest and Globalisation: Stopping Play, edited by Jon Dart and Stephen Wagg. In the original piece below, Field considers GANEFO as a lens through which to understand sport and politics in the era of the Cold War and the Non-Aligned Movement and as a reference point for contemporary debates.
“We’re observing a dangerous relapse into the interference of politics in sport… to make sport an instrument of geopolitical pressure and the formation of a negative image of countries and peoples. The Olympic movement, which plays a colossal unifying role for humanity, could again wind up on the edge of schism.”
“This politically inspired, politically organized, and politically directed enterprise is the antithesis of sport and should be avoided by all sportsmen … [It] might split the world of international sport asunder.”
In Power Games, Jules Boykoff offers a political history of the Olympic Games from their nineteenth-century origins through the present.
2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Via WikimediaCommons
Below we present an excerpt from Boykoff's 2014 Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games, which theorizes the political economy of the contemporary games. "Some have argued recent Olympic history points to a “neoliberalisation of the Games,” Boykoff writes:
I argue that the Olympics are less about neoliberalism and more about the dynamics of capitalism in general.