Tuesday 23 August 2016

SumTips: 6 Ways Free Speech Shaped the 2016 Brazil Olympics

Olympic rings with athletesAs the Olympic Summer Games began, a court ruling decided that it would be illegal for the International Olympic Committee or the Brazilian government to remove political protesters from the event. In defense of the decision, Eloisa Machado de Almeida of the Getulio Vargas Foundation argued, “You can’t use ‘keeping harmony’ inside the Olympic venues as a pretext for censorship in Brazil.” Be thankful for this decision, as the protests—political and otherwise—to emerge from this year’s Games have created waves that are far from over:

Marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished his 26.2 mile race and accepted his medal with crossed arms over his head, an Oromo gesture used to protest the Ethiopian government. Lilesa has accepted that punishment is likely if he returns to Ethiopia: “The Ethiopian government is killing my people, so I stand with all protests anywhere, as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”

When a penalty cost Mongolian wrestler Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran the bronze medal, his coaches caused a scene of their own. Upon realizing the turn of events, a trip to the mat to congratulate Mandakhnaran quickly turned into one coach taking off his shirt and the other stripping down to only his underwear; the crowd shouted, “Mongolia!” as the coaches were escorted away.

Iranian activist Darya Safai attended a men’s Iran-Egypt volleyball match with a statement on the fact that she would be prohibited from attending such an event in her home country. Safai held a sign that read: “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums.” Her refusal to leave was enough to diffuse security’s attempt to remove her.

As soon as New Zealand’s Emma Twigg secured her spot in the women’s singles scull, she used her newfound platform to speak out: “After the race I put my hand up and protested, because I simply don’t believe we should be racing in an Olympic Games conditions like that. It was very tricky, today it was more about surviving and not falling out, which is a shame when you come to the Olympics and your first heat is about staying in the boat as opposed to putting it all on the line.” The conditions were enough to toss Serbians Milos Vasic and Nenad Benik into bacteria-infested waters.

American Black Lives Matter activists traveled to Rio de Janeiro to protest alongside Brazilians. “The most important thing that we can do is build together and mobilize our people to spread the word,” said Boston’s Daunasia Yancey. According to Human Rights Watch, ¾ of the 8,000 individuals killed by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro in the past decade have been black males.
As early as June, Brazilian police and firefighters stood at the Rio de Janeiro airport with a simple message: “WELCOME TO HELL: Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”

The 2016 Summer Olympics may be over, but the spirit of protest they have inspired will live on. Speak your mind, surf secure and stay Rando!

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