The Cutthroat Games

Mexico City.

The Chinese  big producton Beijing Olympics is a coming-out party for cutthroat capitalism, a feather in the cap of what used to be called “the developing world” of which the Chinese Peoples’ Republic considers itself a charter member.

But the Beijing games are not the first Olympics to be staged in the developing world.  In 1968, a fast-modernizing Mexico was awarded the 13th Olympics Games.  For then-president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, whose anti-communist mindset bordered on the pathological, the Games would carve his name in historyt. They did  but not the way Diaz Ordaz anticipated.)

Just as in Beijing, state-of-the-art stadiums were built and a gleaming high rise Olympic Village rose in the south of the city.  While most chilangos (Mexico City residents) dwelt in slum housing, new skyscrapers spired into the onrushing pollution along modern Reforma Boulevard.  The first subway – the Pink Line – was inaugurated just in time for the Games and tens of millions of Yanqui dollars expended to spiff up the Mexican capital for its debut on a world stage.

Once before had the president of Mexico invested the house in such a fiesta.  In 1910, dictator Porfirio Diaz (1876-1910) pumped the entire social budget into the centennial celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain.  Mexicans were so incensed that they had a revolution instead.

’68 proved another watershed in the Mexican social dynamic.  The trouble began in July when youths from a “prepa” or high school of the National Autonomous University (UNAM) and a vocational school in the National Polytechnic Institute’s system, clashed in the center of the city. Police detained more than a thousand students and invaded the campus of the UNAM prepa, violating the hallowed autonomy of the university.

Disturbances continued for a week and downtown streets were barricaded.  On July 26th, a march to mark the 14th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago that kicked off the Cuban revolution was brutally suppressed in the old quarter – one student was killed and Mexican Communist Party headquarters raided by Diaz Ordaz’s police.  The President accused the Cubans of seeking to disrupt the Olympics and embarrass Mexico before the world.

UNAM students formed a general strike committee and boycotted their schools – the strike was quickly endorsed by the more working class Polytechnic Institute (IPN.)  As summer drew to a close, clashes peaked.  The Mexican Army used bazookas to smash down the great doors of the original university building in the city’s old quarter – the UNAM, constituted in 1559, is the oldest and largest university in the Americas.  Tanks were parked in the Zocalo, the great plaza that is at the heart of the Mexican body politic.  200,000 silent protestors, their mouths taped up to mock Diaz Ordaz’s crackdown, marched through the capital.

With less than a month to go before the Games were set to get underway October 12, Diaz Ordaz ordered the arrest of student strike committee organizers and the military seized the university’s main campus in southern Mexico City.  With their leaders locked up in the Lecumberri Black Palace prison and momentum wearing thin, strikers sought to regroup with a meeting in the Plaza of Three Cultures in the midst of the mammoth Tlatelolco housing complex near downtown on October 2.

The 1968 Olympics were Cold War Games.  The International Olympics Committee had displayed an anti-Soviet bias ever since the 1920 Games in Belgium, the first since the Great War and the Russian Revolution, from which the Soviet Union delegation was barred.  After World War II, London (1948), Helsinki (1952), Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), and Tokyo (1964) had all been Cold War Games and Mexico 1968 was no exception.

U.S. intelligence agents trolled the Soviet bloc delegations for defectors.  East and west spied upon each other without remit.  Washington’s Mexico City embassy was its largest in the world and equipped with cutting-edge technology to keep tabs on Cuban and Soviet diplomatic missions.  Both teams assembled top tier teams of spies for the Games.  By the summer of ’68, Mexico City resembled a spooks’ Olympics.

Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexican capital, had developed a close relationship with Diaz Ordaz and pledged his aid in quelling the student disturbances. The late Phillip Agee, a veteran Agency spook in Africa and Latin America, was brought in under cover as a “cultural attaché.”  One of Agee’s assignments was to tout the U.S. Space program before university audiences but his real mission was to infiltrate the General Strike Committee and thwart Cuban influence.

In Agee’s breakaway bestseller “Inside The Company – CIA Diary”, he reveals that the agency had assets inside the strike committee.  One of Agee’s tasks was to prepare a daily report on the student strike that appeared on Interior Secretary Luis Echeverria’s desk each morning – Echeverria was Diaz Ordaz’s top civilian organizer of the repression.

Some 8000 strikers and their families gathered in the Plaza of Three Cultures on the evening of October 2, a disappointing turnout.  They were outnumbered by police and army units encamped on the side streets.  As daylight faded, a military helicopter dropped a flare, signaling government sharpshooters on the ninth floor of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations, which overlooked the plaza.  The snipers deliberately fired on army troops who had moved in to surround the protestors and cut off all escape routes from the plaza.

As the snipers’ bullets rained down on them, the mostly Indian “Olympic Brigade” opened up on student leaders who were speaking from the steps of the nearby Chihuahua apartment building.  Thousands assembled in the plaza were caught in the crossfire.  The corpses stacked up like cordwood on the plaza floor.  Estimates of the number of dead vacillated wildly but the best count remains 257 killed, researched by a British Guardian reporter who had been trapped under a corpse heap on a Chihuahua building landing.

Thousands were rounded up and disappeared into the pens of Military Camp #1 on the western edge of the capital.  The bodies of the dead were incinerated in the camp’s ovens.  Those who survived still speak of the stench of their comrades’ burning flesh.

The next morning, Excelsior, then Mexico’s newspaper of reference, noted that 30 “Pro-Cuban” agitators had been slain after firing on army troops in the Plaza of Three Cultures.  With the Olympics only ten days off, notice of the massacre was buried.  Outspoken Italian correspondent Oriana Fallaci, who had been shot in the ass, was one of the few to make a stink.  Carolyn Lippert, then working for CBS, took film of the massacre to Mexico City International Airport and persuaded a tourist to smuggle it to New York but CBS never ran the film.

Ten days later on October 12, the day that Columbus supposedly “discovered” America, the 1968 Olympic Games began in Mexico City.  Thousands of white doves were released into the polluted heavens to signal the moment.  God’s name was repeatedly invoked.

The 1968 Olympics encapsulated a troubled moment in the United States.  Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April, Bobby Kennedy in June.  Urban rebellion scorched the nation’s inner cities.  The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was on the move and the cry for racial justice palpable.  When Tommy Smith and John Carlos mounted the winners’ podium after finishing first and third in the 200 meter dash, they raised their gloved fists in a black power salute scandalizing the all-white U.S. Olympic Committee which immediately stripped them of their medals, barred them from the Olympic Village, and had Diaz Ordaz throw them out of Mexico.  Years of persecution followed.

When asked by this reporter in a personal interview, John Carlos maintained that his black power salute was a protest at racial injustice in the United States and insisted he knew nothing of the student massacre at Tlatelolco ten days earlier.

Within months of the close of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Diaz Ordaz was enmeshed in a war with a dozen guerrilla bands.  The student massacre proved a watershed event that altered the Mexican social dynamic forever.

The Beijing Olympics are unfolding against a similar sinister backdrop.  The Games were awarded to Beijing despite the ongoing crackdown against the Tibetan independence movement and the jailing and torture of thousands of activists.

Parents who protest the deaths of 1100 children buried under the rubble of shoddily constructed schools in the aftermath of the Sichuen earthquake are hauled off to “re-education camps.” Hollywood luminaries like Mia Farrow and Stephen Spielberg continue to advocate a boycott of the Beijing Games because of China’s role in the genocide of Darfur.  Athletes who protest these indignities in Beijing are guaranteed the John Carlos-Tommy Smith treatment.

All of these unpleasant events have been swept under the rug to appease the Chinese capitalist class.  Any reporter mentioning the 1989 Tiennemens massacre can be assured of a quick trip home.

The Chinese brand of savage capitalism is responsible for some of the most flagrant human rights abuses in the world today.  Citizens accused of minor crimes are executed en masse and their organs harvested for re-sale to the wealthy Chinese overseas community.  The Peoples’ Army has even developed a morgue wagon that permits medics to extract those organs immediately after execution to keep them fresh.

Although China’s number one spot on the world’s capital punishment index has been challenged by Iran this year, the decrease is certainly due to the glare of the Olympic spotlight and not a change of heart by the dubiously Communist Party.  The Chinese military still publicly executes hundreds of accused drug dealers and users in sports stadiums around the country every June 26th, United Nations Anti-Drug Day.

From Coca Cola to Adidas to McDonalds and beyond, the transnational sponsors of the Beijing Olympics who have shelled out $850 million USD to flack their merchandise at the Games have Chinese blood on their hands.

JOHN ROSS’s web site johnross-rebeljournalist.com is up and running if not yet a fait a compli. Ross is in Mexico City in the heat of writing the monstrously entitled “EL MONSTRUO – TALES OF DREAD AND REDEMPTION FROM THE MOST MONSTROUS MEGALOPOLIS ON THE PLANET EARTH.”  If you have further info, please write johnross@igc.org






More articles by:

JOHN ROSS’s El Monstruo – Dread & Redemption in Mexico City is now available at your local independent bookseller. Ross is plotting a monster book tour in 2010 – readers should direct possible venues to johnross@igc.org

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”