FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Redeeming the Olympic Martyrs of 1968

1968. There was never a year when the worlds of sports and politics collided so breathlessly, without mercy or respite. It was the year Muhammad Ali, stripped of his heavyweight title for resisting the draft, spoke on 200 college campuses and askedthe question, “Can they take my title without me being whupped?” It was the year Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics became champions once again, yet the player-coach saw his house vandalized by bigots. This led Russell to call the city of Boston a “flea market of racism,” and say “I am a Celtic, not a BOSTON Celtic.” It was the year the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, playing in a city that carried the specter of insurrection with riots in the hood, snipers on the roofs, wildcat strikes in the auto plants, and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets” ringing throughout the projects.

And most famously, it was the year that Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the 200-meter medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics to raise their black gloved fists in a demonstration of pride, power, and politics. Smith and Carlos were part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and they made their stand because of what was happening outside the stadium: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King; the growth of the Black Panthers, the May strikes in France, and most recently in their thoughts, the slaughter of hundreds in the country where they were being feted with gold.

On October 2, 1968, right before the start of the games, Mexican Security police murdered as many as 400 students and workers at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City. Today we remember that violent echo of 1968. We remember those put down like dogs for the crime of peaceful assembly. We can remember at long last, without tears, because of news Monday that a measure of closure may finally be coming for the families that have waged a 37-year quest for truth, justice, and a pound of flesh. Mexican prosecutors announced that they were finally acceding to a four-decades-long campaign, and filed long-awaited charges against former President Luis Echeverria for ordering the Tlatelolco bloodbath. Echeverria was interior minister and head of national security at the time of the massacre. “It has been almost 37 years of impunity and justice denied,” prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo told Reuters. “Now for the first time it is possible that the justice system may perform its duty.” The Tlatelolco killings were fatally intertwined with the oncoming Olympics. Student strikes had rocked Mexico throughout the year. This was a time of mass struggle from the Yucatan to Tijuana. But the students and their supporters, despite previous clashes with the state police, could not have foreseen the fanatical desire of Mexico to “make their country secure” for the coming Olympic games.

Echeverria’s Olympic clean-up, not the actions of panicked police, rogue officers, or indiscriminate trigger happy shooters, were respnsible for the deaths. Recently declassified documents paint a picture of a massacre as cold and methodical as Echeverria’s instructions, and the blood in his veins. As Kate Doyle, director of the Mexico Documentation Project describes, “When the shooting stopped, hundreds of people lay dead or wounded, as Army and police forces seized surviving protesters and dragged them away. Although months of nationwide student strikes had prompted an increasingly hard-line response,no one was prepared for the bloodbath that Tlatelolco became. More shocking still was the cover-up that kicked in as soon as the smoke cleared. Eye-witnesses to the killings pointed to the President’s ‘security’ forces, who entered the plaza bristling with weapons, backed by armored vehicles. But the government pointed back, claiming that extremists and communist agitators had initiated the violence. Who was responsible for Tlatelolco? The Mexican people have been demanding an answer ever since.”

Thousands of people have marched in the streets every year demanding justice for what is seen as Mexico’s Tiananmen Square. And while it is certainly welcome to see Echeverria doddering in cuffs, this arrest should not be seen only as an epilogue of the past but a warning for the future. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the British Olympics of 2012 both hold the potential for crackdowns that could make Tlatelolco seem mild in comparison. At the very least in China, where human rights and trade union organizing are a daily battle in normal times, the Olympics will hit those struggles with the force of a hurricane (a metaphor I don’t use lightly.) We need today to organize a new Olympic Project for Human Rights so people in China who want to resist the corporate monolith and state repression which trail after the Olympics like so much detritus, have the political space to do so. It would be a true, living justice, if the martyrs of 1968 can be resurrected to haunt a new generation of Echeverrias already planning security operations in Beijing.

DAVE ZIRIN’s new book “What’s My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States” is published by Haymarket Books. Check out his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com. Contact him at whatsmynamefool2005@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

More articles by:

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

July 14, 2020
Anthony DiMaggio
Canceling the Cancel Culture: Enriching Discourse or Dumbing it Down?
Patrick Cockburn
Boris Johnson Should not be Making New Global Enemies When His Country is in a Shambles
Frank Joyce
Lift From the Bottom? Yes.
Richard C. Gross
The Crackdown on Foreign Students
Steven Salaita
Should We Cancel “Cancel Culture”?
Paul Street
Sorry, the Chicago Blackhawks Need to Change Their Name and Logo
Jonathan Cook
‘Cancel Culture’ Letter is About Stifling Free Speech, Not Protecting It
John Feffer
The Global Rushmore of Autocrats
C. Douglas Lummis
Pillar of Sand in Okinawa
B. Nimri Aziz
Soft Power: Americans in Its Grip at Home Must Face the Mischief It Wields by BNimri Aziz July 11/2020
Cesar Chelala
What was lost when Ringling Bros. Left the Circus
Dan Bacher
California Regulators Approve 12 New Permits for Chevron to Frack in Kern County
George Wuerthner
Shrinking Wilderness in the Gallatin Range
Lawrence Davidson
Woodrow Wilson’s Racism: the Basis For His Support of Zionism
Binoy Kampmark
Mosques, Museums and Politics: the Fate of Hagia Sophia
Dean Baker
Propaganda on Government Action and Inequality from David Leonhardt
July 13, 2020
Gerald Sussman
The Russiagate Spectacle: Season 2?
Ishmael Reed
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Perry Mason Moment
Jack Rasmus
Why the 3rd Quarter US Economic ‘Rebound’ Will Falter
W. T. Whitney
Oil Comes First in Peru, Not Coronavirus Danger, Not Indigenous Rights
Ralph Nader
The Enduring Case for Demanding Trump’s Resignation
Raghav Kaushik – Arun Gupta
On Coronavirus and the Anti-Police-Brutality Uprising
Deborah James
Digital Trade Rules: a Disastrous New Constitution for the Global Economy Written by and for Big Tech
Howard Lisnoff
Remembering the Nuclear Freeze Movement and Its Futility
Sam Pizzigati
Will the Biden-Sanders Economic Task Force Rattle the Rich?
Allen Baker
Trump’s Stance on Foreign College Students Digs US Economic Hole Even Deeper
Binoy Kampmark
The Coronavirus Seal: Victoria’s Borders Close
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Power, Knowledge and Virtue
Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail