Tokyo 2020 draws to a close amid a changing world

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Tokyo 2020 will be remembered as the Olympics which battled a pandemic, delays and lack of crowds.

These Games, however, delivered like the Games of the past. Individual and team efforts that will be remembered for a long time despite the obvious challenges.

Tokyo 2020 will also be marked by the social and political context that surrounded the 17 days of elite competition.

The ongoing global battle against the coronavirus has been exemplified by the inability of crowds to attend these Olympics when athletes were required to follow strict protocols.

Host country Japan, meanwhile, faced its own battle against a deadly second wave of coronavirus, with the country on track to hit 15,000 cases per day.

This culminated in an Olympics which for many people and especially the citizens of Japan sat uncomfortably in their build and run over the 17 days.

These Olympics, like many world sporting events, have provided athletes and teams with a platform to voice their opinions and show their support for social and political change.

The Olympic Games have not traditionally permitted any type of political protest, as stated in Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter: “No kind of political, religious or racial manifestation or propaganda is permitted on any venue, site or other area. Olympic ”.

However, this rule has been relaxed by the International Olympic Committee in the run-up to Tokyo 2020, with athletes being allowed to express their political views in press, social media and on-field interviews before the competition.

Teams kneeling before kick-off have become one of the most recognized and powerful symbols of the collective coming together to help eradicate racism.

This was evident in Tokyo, where countries united in their fight against racism by kneeling before kick-off, including the British and American women’s football teams.

(Photo by Brad Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

Like many individuals and teams who threaten to question and advocate for social change, criticism never seems too far away, however.

The Matildas got this criticism for their decision to pose with the Aboriginal flag – one of Australia’s three official flags – instead of the Australian flag ahead of their group opener against New Zealand.

As might be expected, social media was abuzz, criticizing the team for not representing Australia and for dividing the country with the choice of which flag they chose to pose with.

Conservatives were quick to highlight this division as well, including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who said: “The Matildas should stick to playing football and represent all Australians at the Tokyo Olympics.”

Matildas star Sam Kerr explained the process and said the team wanted to do something different by highlighting the issue of division, while still allowing Indigenous girls to lead the action.

Sam kerr

Sam Kerr of the Matildas in action in Tokyo (Photo by Masashi Hara / Getty Images)

This question of division, however, seems somewhat hypocritical when it comes to the First Nations peoples of Australia who, since white colonization, have never really felt part of the collective fabric of this nation and to this day, are not. mentioned in the Constitution.

US silver medalist shot putter Raven Saunders used her platform when presented with her medal as she raised her hand in an “X” shape above her head.

Asked about it, she responded by stating, “Shout out to all my black people. Well done to my entire LGBTQ community. Well done to everyone involved in mental health. ”

Much like The Matildas, Saunders has been criticized by many parts of the US media, including the conservative news network Fox News, while the IOC has ultimately suspended its investigation into whether Saunders crossed the line the way it did. political statement.

Saunders doubled his stance, later tweeting, “Let them try to take this medal. I run across borders even though I can’t swim, ”she replied to the IOC’s inquiry.

American gymnast Simone Biles was one of Saunders ‘biggest supporters with the mental health issue particularly relevant to Biles’ Olympic campaign.

Criticism of Saunders again centered on his lack of appreciation for the privilege of representing his country and that politics and sport should not be mixed.

The common notion that because you represent your country speaking out against existing injustices should not happen does not seem to correspond to freedom of expression.

Powerful platforms such as the Olympics must be used to raise these important social issues as long as it is done in a peaceful and non-threatening manner.

Critics of these platforms used to raise awareness in society point to the exact reason why it is important for athletes to feel empowered to speak out against injustices.

The uncomfortable conversation that must be recognized by many of these political statements is a conversation that we cannot continue to hide or deny.

Tokyo 2020 provided many powerful images.

I think one image stands out from the rest, that of the baby boomers posing with the three official Australian flags after winning the bronze medal match against Slovenia. The team was led by the proud native Patty Mills, who was also Australia’s first native flag bearer.

This image showed the collective spirit that can be forged through sport regardless of race, religion or belief.

Australia is a multicultural country with a rich indigenous history that should be celebrated and proudly represented.

The question must be asked, however: if the Matildas had posed with the Australian flag, would we have heard criticism about them not representing the indigenous people of Australia?

I do not think so.

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