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Tokyo 2020

"I am Human" - The flaws in the Olympic spirit that failed Sha'Carri Richardson

Sha'Carri Richardson is another victim of a system that perpetrates racism and will definitely not be the last to suffer from it.

Team USA Athlete ShaCarri Richardson

Sha'Carri Richardson (Source:NBC)


C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 8 July 2021 5:20 PM GMT

Tommie Smith is one of the many pioneers in movements that surround racism in sports. Along with his teammate John Carlos, he set a precedent of gestures that brought the world's attention to systematic racism and societal injustices plaguing America in the late 20th Century. Standing with his arms raised while ' Star Spangled Banner' played around the stadium, the world was in shock and the backlash that both athletes received was immense. This was in 1968. Fast forward to 2021 and racism has grown in multiple forms with the advent of technology, medical infrastructure, and the advancement of politics. The opposition to racism has also fought a losing battle and Sha'Carri Richardson is another victim of it.

Rule 50 enforced by the International Olympic Committee will be in place at the Tokyo Olympics this year. It states "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas." The aim of it is to bar any kind of protests or gestures that might take away from the spirit of the Olympics and the focus of the athletes that is the competition itself.

This is one of the biggest signs that the room for human rights awareness will be blatantly restricted and even punished. What can be more blatantly arbitrary than a system that aims to bring down victims of socio-political injustices? The Olympics have been one of the few sporting events in the world that have had athletes from different regions participating alongside each other. The 5 circles that represent the 5 continents have been designed for a particular reason and stand tall as the best representation of inclusivity at the Olympics.

Gwen Berry- another sporting icon

Another incident was the banning of special swimming caps(Soul Caps) worn by black swimmers. It is known that black swimmers have a certain hair texture and for this, it is important that they have the best equipment while competing. However, FINA stated that the cap did not meet its competing requirements given its size. The opposition to this was mainly over how it would prevent young black swimmers from taking up the sport if they were denied basic equipment while training.

As a result, the 'Soul Cap' ban has been reconsidered given that the FINA respects 'inclusivity' in its bid to popularize swimming. The irony however is that they only did this after a sustained backlash and would have never gone back on their decision had there been no awareness on the matter.

Sha'Carri Richardson is a victim of a failed system. Right from Jesse Owens to Tommie Smith, racism has been a rampant issue even in the worlds' biggest sporting extravaganza. The list of such victims also include Caster Semenya, Gwen Berry, and Christine Mboma, all of whom have been shot down due to their body structures, political opinions, etc.

Not much has been done to alleviate basic racism even with the Black Lives Matter movement making great waves across the world. With the implementation of Rule 50 at the Tokyo Olympics, the BLM will see major opposition to it in any form of kneeling, hand raising, or gestures are carried out by the athletes.

The current stand of the International Olympic Committee is just another of the several systematically induced regulations to curb the spread of human rights and anti-racism movements. We have failed some of the best athletes in the world if they are not allowed to compete and express themselves due to vested interest and racial motives in place. But most importantly, we have failed the Olympic Spirit that stands for more than just competing and winning medals.

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