Growing up in the 1990s, I didn't have pictures of movie stars on the wall my room - I had Joan Benoit Samuelson. Sprinting to victory in the first women's Olympic marathon, she looked confident, happy and tough. I read about sprinter Wilma Rudolph, the 20th child of 'a railroad porter from Tennessee. She wore l leg warmers when she was little, but grew up to be an Olympic champion; I also pasted her picture on my wall. watched a number of champions on my TVn: Venus Williams in tennis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee in track, Misty Hyman in swimming. All perfect additions to my wall.
To me they were heroes. They showed that you can win and be proud of it. They were Olympians.
Then I learned what really happened around the Olympics. The children were assaulted by their gymnastics team doctor. The champions were fueled with drugs instead of sand. Officials enriched while the athletes worked hard. LThe actual villages were moved for the Olympics. The Games started to look like little more than a national branding exercise - and a costly distraction from our long list of crises.
This year ago even more to criticize. Tokyo is shaping up to be an angry Olympics, and for good reason: corporate greed, climate degradation, racial inequity and risk that holding the Games during the still raging pandemic will turn it into a major event.
Some have said they have lost their enthusiasm to watch the Games. Toyota, a major sponsor, has withdrawn its s which should be released in Japan (no one has the option to boycott the Games in person, as earlier this month spectators were prohibited from most events .) In the midst of a spike in Covid-19 cases, the Japanese public massively disapproves the outfit of the event (and nearly half of Americans agree). Already the athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus, some equipes isolating after exposure. Meanwhile, we've seen protests over whether Olympic rules treat all athletes fairly, including a series of scandals surrounding swim caps that do not fit to black hair, and excluding African sprinters with naturally high testosterone levels from certain races.
What has been sold as a moment of global unity and celebration of humanity's accomplishment now feels as rotten as everything else. Is it possible to still watch in good faith? Or is it another broken institution that we must burn down? Video tran
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I used the podium to protest. The Olympic Committee punished me.
The IOC is still on the wrong side of history.
What does it take to be an Olympian? "He's a double Olympic champion!" Strength. "So Gwen Berry comes forward. " Perseverance. "A new competition record. " Belief. "She came here ranked No. 2 in the world. " I am oneof the best hammer throwers of all time. And I am proud to be an American Olympian. But do you want to know what I think about racial injustice in America? It is —— ”[BEEP] The Olympic Charter has a rule that prohibits athletes from demonstrating at the Olympic Games. If we protest, they punish us. This is what happened to me. So last summer at the Pan Am Games, I threw 74 meters and won gold. [CHEERS] I remember the coin being so heavy and so real. I was excited. I was nervous. [MUSIC PLAYING - 'THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER '] At that time when the national anthem was playing, I knew that national anthem didn't speak for people like me in America. Freedom, liberty and justice for all is not for black people. Something is invading me. I raised my fist. I felt like I wasn't at peace with myself if I didn't say or do anything at the time. "The mgold medalist at hammer throw Gwen Berry raised her fist— " - raising her fist— " - raised her fist in protest against social injustice. "This is my letter. "Dear Gwen, this letter will serve as a formal reprimand from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Also, the USOPC considers you to be on probation for the next 12 months. Now I don't know for you guys, but that doesn't make sense to me. Thus, Rule 50 is a rule of the Olympic Charter which states that athletes may not display any kind of political, religious or racial propaganda on the playing field or on the podium of the Olympic Games. Raising a fist or putting a knee? This is not allowed. Here is the IOC board members who apply the rule. So the idea that whites tell black people exactly what they can and cannot say or do is exactly why I protested.The IOC's gist behind Rule 50 is to make sure everyone comes together. Everyone is kumbaya. Let's stick to sport. This is ridiculous because there is nothing quite like sticking to sports. Every Olympic athlete has fought for something or believes in something. Of course, we can demonstrate in front of the Olympic Village. But who will see this? Nobody. The whole world sees it when we protest on the podium. I did something when it wasn't popular. I did it because, really, this is how I feel. Really, this is how I have lived my life. And I'm sick of it. The Olympic Committee is on the wrong side of history, but not for the first time. During the 1968 Olympics, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black fists in the air. Like me, they were punished. "And now, on November 1, this same committee will induct these two men into the United States Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.. Guess it's better late than never, huh? This is hypocritical. The International Olympic Committee — they love stories. They want to pitch, oh, well, this athlete grew up without a fat uh, or this athlete grew up in the ghettos. This athlete had to go without food for months and months. But as soon as the athlete is the best athlete in the world, they say, oh, no you can't talk about racial discrimination in the black and brown neighborhoods. Oh, it 's not for you to talk about. But this athlete is literally a product of the system. This is hypocritical because I am here - a broke black woman - saying that what they are doing to other black people is wrong. And I was punished for it. I was disgusted. I just couldn't believe it. “We, the National Football League, admit that we were wrong not to listen to N.F.L. players earlier and encourage everyone to speak out and protest peacefully. Otherssports bodies finally confront their past and allow players to demonstrate. "Major League Baseball players spent opening day sending a message - Black Lives Matter. " "NASCAR banning the display of Confederate flags at all events— " Thomas Bach, I know that you want the Olympics to remain a place of harmony and that you only focus on sport. You ask athletes like me to push our limits and strive for excellence. It is time for you to do the same. You have to get rid of Rule 50 and come up with something else. Standing up for what you believe, pushing for impossible dreams is the Olympic spirit. I'm ready for Tokyo 2021 and my next podium. And when I'm there, I want to be able to raise my fist and my voice without being punished.
The CIO is still on the wrong side of history.
I think there is still a way to enjoy the Olympics this year - and even love them. The appeal of the Games has never really been the Olympic Games as an institution; it's the Olympians themselves. And since I was a kid putting their pictures on my walls, the Olympians haven't really changed. These athletes always show extraordinary human achievements from all over the world. This year's list is still going strong. Looking at them gives hope.
It was clear to me when I 'd ' watched the US Olympic trials last month, when the atThe athletes competed for places in the national teams. I was as exhausted from the pandemic and numbed by the litany of Olympic issues as anyone else, but as I watched Simone Biles give a lesson in gravity and Sha 'Carri Richardson get ahead of her competition, the ambivalence dissolved.
The track was so hot that the athletes could barely take . Yet the excitement was contagious, the athleticism thrilling. Watching someone's face in the seconds she qualifies for the Olympics witnesses what could very well be the highlight of her life. Your bodystretches out with her as she leans in for the finish. It's hard not to feel stimulated by proxy.
And it's good to need it now.
We don't yet have many ways in our culture to be collectively inspired. After more than a year of confinement, tragedy and uncertainty, watching athletes achieve their dreams despite all challenges seemed like one.
Even watching the disappointments of the athletes was kind of motivating. After failing to qualify for the Olympic Games in the 100-meter freestyle, swimmer Simone Manuel spoken about combating burnout and depression. His experience was deeply relatable, even if you don'trtie of the fastest swimmers in the country. For a moment, she was fallible like the rest of us. Then, incredibly, she is part of the team for the 50-meter freestyle race , in his last stroke.
I'm tired of being cynical about everything. I read everyday how the ship I'm on is sinking, and right now I want to hear the band. This year I will eat it all and watch the Olympians go through adversity and pain to triumph. In such a broken time, there is a special balm that these triumphs offer, an example to move us forward. After qualifying for her fifth Olympics, Allyson Felix took her daughter to the track to celebrate, receiving applause from working parents.t. Gabby Thomas discovered a tumor on her liver earlier this year (it turned out to be benign). After watching her win the 200 meters in practice, in the second fastest American time ever, I thought maybe I could pull myself together to get to the office next month.
We can and should criticize the Olympics as an institution while appreciating the achievements of the Olympians themselves. Like all of us, they are caught up in systems they did not create. Yes there are lies, abuse and failure, but the talent and hard work are real.
There is lots of bwe have some suggestions for how to change the Olympics, and we should be pushing for them. It starts at the top - with leadership that puts the emphasis back on sport. Fixing the Games will require pressure from fans, sponsors, athletes and the nations themselves.
Regardless, fixing the Games will not solve our biggest problems. Right now we have Tokyo.
One weekend this summer, I was chatting with a 9 year old. What did she want to be when she grew up? She didn't say she wanted to be an Olympian. She didn't say she wanted to win a medal. She said she wanted to be Allyson Felix.
You don 't have to be a kid to have a thrill with people who do impossible things. The Olympics aren't perfect, and neither are the Olympians. But they show that they pcould endure. Maybe we can too.
Why watch you have the Olympics?
Lindsay Crouse ( @ lindsaycrouse ) is a screenwriter and producer in Opinion. She produced the Emmy-nominated "Equal Play " opinion video series that significantly reformed women's sport.
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