Tokyo Games 100 days to go: Spitz says Olympics must not prevent 'rightful opportunity to speak out'

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Olympics great Mark Spitz believes politically active athletes are unlikely to heed demands for them not to protest during Tokyo 2020.

United States swimming superstar Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games to establish himself as an all-time legend of the pool.

He recalled the Black Power salute from American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Games four years earlier as a prime example of Olympians using their platform to take a powerful stance in front of the watching world.

On the podium in Mexico City, after Smith won gold in the 200 metres and Carlos took bronze, the American sprinters each stood with a black-gloved hand raised and head bowed, an immortal protest against racism in the United States.

Spitz acknowledged the determined efforts of current sporting superstars such as LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton to draw attention to similar matters of racial prejudice.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said last year that the Olympics "are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends".

Bach added: "Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organisations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be."

In an interview with Stats Perform, Spitz said of the IOC's intentions: "I know they have had some campaigns at a political level not to make it a platform for people to speak out against things that are obviously a concern to them, and they use when they stand on the podium and win a medal to voice their opinion.

"I am on the fence in how I feel about it. An example was Tommie Smith and John Carlos who held their hands up in the 1968 Olympic Games in track and field. And that still resonates to this day.

"And the issues they spoke loud and clear about are still happening here in America and worldwide. So I don't think people's rightful opportunity to speak out will be eradicated."

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz added: "I think there's a proper place and a proper time and in most people's opinion the proper place and time are when the most people in the world are listening to you.

"And certainly that provokes those sort of things to happen at the Olympics, or other events for that matter."

Formula One champion Hamilton and NBA superstar James have used their global fame as a means to call for equality in society and sport.

Spitz stressed he remained "down the middle of the line" on political protests in sport, but he added: "I think morally if they feel they need to speak out then they should. And there's a way to do that in a polite and politically correct and accurate way. I think those two gentlemen [Hamilton and James] have done so."

Spitz, now 71, no longer holds the record for the most gold medals in a single Games after fellow swimming great Michael Phelps won eight at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He predicted organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics - set back a year by the COVID-19 pandemic - will go the extra mile to deliver a standout entertainment experience for the worldwide audience.

International spectators have been banned from travelling to watch the Games, in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

"I suspect and hope they will go off without a hitch, but in keeping with tradition I'm not sure how they'll do an opening ceremony with all those people, or an opening ceremony show," Spitz said.

"It is a big revenue generator for the television networks to have those part of the festivities. It's a shame if it's not done as we're accustomed to seeing, but I think it will be modified and we'll be happy with what the presentation will be I hope."

Related items

  • Corey Bennett appointed head coach of many-time 'Champs' winners Calabar High School Corey Bennett appointed head coach of many-time 'Champs' winners Calabar High School

    Corey Bennett has been appointed the head track and field coach at Calabar High School, the school announced Wednesday.

    Bennett replaces Michael Clarke, whose tenure at the Red Hills Road high school, ended with his resignation in March. Clarke led Calabar High to nine of their 28 titles at the ISSA Boys and Girls’ Championships.

    Bennett was head coach at Hydel High School, transforming them into a perennial contender challenging Edwin Allen’s dominance of the championships over the last decade. He was also an assistant coach at St Jago High School and Wolmer’s Boys.

    Bennett has big shoes to fill at Calabar, the second most successful high school at Boys Champs if he is to equal or surpass Clarke’s legacy.

    According to a statement released by Calabar on Wednesday, the new head coach will be responsible for “leading and managing the track and field programme and for coaching the team within the established school guidelines.”

    The statement continued: “It is expected that he will build on the well-established foundation laid by his predecessors to hone and execute, along with his team, a competitive programme that is marked by exemplary sportsmanship, athletic excellence and unquestioned integrity while safeguarding the educational welfare of the student-athletes, all within the framework of  the school’s mission.”

    In recent years, Bennett has been instrumental in the development of some of jamaica's most outstanding junior athletes including NCAA 400m silver medallist Charokee Young, Carifta 2022 200m champion Brianna Lyston, Kerrica Hill and Alana Reid.

    Bennett was recently the head coach of Jamaica's team for the 49th edition of the Carifta Games held in Kingston in April.

    Jamaica won a record 92 medals at the championships including 45 gold medals.

     

     

  • Tour de France: Clarke in shock after conquering cobbles to win stage five Tour de France: Clarke in shock after conquering cobbles to win stage five

    Simon Clarke admitted he surprised even himself after edging out Taco van der Hoorn to win an action-packed stage five of the 2022 Tour de France.

    The Israel-Premier Tech rider landed the victory from the breakaway on the cobbles of Arenberg on Wednesday, a day in which the General Classification was shaken up.

    Jumbo-Visma endured a day to forget in the north-east of France, with Primoz Roglic crashing late on to see his title hopes dented and Wout Van Aert also losing ground.

    While Roglic finished just under three minutes off the pace, race leader Van Aert recovered from an early crash of his own to finish just 13 seconds behind rival Tadej Pogacar.

    UAE Team Emirates rider Pogacar, seeking a third Tour de France crown, rode clear of the main field to shake up the GC standings.

    The day ultimately belonged to Clarke, though, with the Australian beating Van der Hoorn in a photo finish in a dramatic 157-kilometre race from Lille that went the distance.

    Five men broke away from the pack and Clarke, who recently contemplated early retirement, dug deep to nudge his wheel over the line for his first Tour de France triumph.

    "After the winter I had when I had no team, to then have Israel ring me and say we'll give you a chance, it gives you a reality check to make the most of every chance," Clarke said.

    "I still can't believe I got it on the line. Taco was well ahead of me with less than 50m to go, both legs were camping and I just lined up the biggest throw I could possibly do.

    "I just had to pray it was enough. I need to watch the replay – I still don't quite believe it!"

     

    Roglic concedes ground on Pogacar

    The leading group was reduced to five men with around 26km to go and it was Clarke who saw the job through ahead of Van der Hoorn, with Edvald Boasson Hagen rounding off the podium.

    Stage five was a big one in terms of the GC, with defending champion Pogacar making up two minutes on Roglic to underline his status as favourite for another title.

    STAGE RESULT 

    1. Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) 3:13:35
    2. Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) same time
    3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) +0:02
    4. Neilson Powless (EF Education–EasyPost) +0.04
    5. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education–EasyPost) +0.30


    CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

    General Classification

    1. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 16:17:22
    2. Neilson Powless (EF Education–EasyPost) +0:13
    3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) +0:14

    Points Classification

    1. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 178
    2. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 126
    3. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education–EasyPost) 86

    King of the Mountains

    1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education–EasyPost) 11
    2. Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) 1

  • "We are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness"-Michael Johnson says Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah don't get enough credit "We are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness"-Michael Johnson says Fraser-Pryce and Thompson-Herah don't get enough credit

    Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson, who won two gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Games, believes that Jamaican sprinting icons Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah are underappreciated.

    In an interview with Athletics Weekly, the former 200m and 400m world record holder offered an interesting new lens to look at the sport, saying we should focus on head-to-head duels rather than fixating on times.

    Johnson said that nowadays, track and field is too focused on the times and not focused enough on the rivalry and the storytelling behind the scenes as well, and the women’s 100m rivalry between Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah is a perfect opportunity to showcase that.

    “Yeah, I mean I would say that it’s a perfect example of the problem because I don’t think that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce or Elaine Thompson-Herah get enough credit for what they’ve done in the sport because we’re so focused on times,” said Johnson.

    “So, you know right now I can see that you know what’s going to happen most likely with Elaine is, there’s going to continue for the remained of her career unless she breaks the World record in the 100m, a focus now on whether she breaks the world record or not and if she doesn’t, you know there’s a danger that people will be disappointed,” he said.

    The 29-year-old Thompson-Herah is a five-time Olympic champion and the 100m and 200m title holder from both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

    At 35, Fraser-Pryce has three Olympic gold medals – eight medals in total – including the gold-standard 100m crown won at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. She is also a nine-time world champion and the reigning world gold medallist at 100m.

    “I mean, then the fact that you have at the same time these two women from this very small island, who go head-to-head you know at these championships and they, between the two of them, they’ve won the gold medals in the 100m over the last four Olympic Games,” said Johnson.

    The current 100m world record has stood since 1988, Florence Griffith-Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, became the only woman ever to break the 10.5-second barrier with a run of 10.49 at the US Olympic trials in 1988. Since then, many have deemed the mark impossible to beat – not least because of controversy regarding possible wind assistance at those trials.

    Johnson feels instead of focusing on the world record, we should be focused more on these athletes and their ability to deliver when it counts at championships.

    “You know that’s incredible and I think that should be celebrated. And if I think if we were focused more on these athletes and their ability to deliver when it counts at championships and win the head-to-head battle as opposed to well this time and what was the wind and you know is it a national record and how close is it to the world record and all of those things, I think we are robbing ourselves and the sport of its greatness,” he said.

     

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.