Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest track athletes of all time was shunned by Hitler and Roosevelt alike

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest track athletes of all time, was shunned by Hitler and Roosevelt alike

by The Spark

The Olympic Games in Brazil are the 31st modern Olympic Games, according to the tradition that was reinvented at the end of the 19th century. If today they supposedly promote peace, equality between people, and between men and women, they are rooted in a history of racism, sexism, nationalism and cheating.

Coubertin: Racist, Colonialist, Sexist

Baron Pierre de Coubertin instigated the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. He wanted to exalt aristocratic ideals, which were exclusively male and white. Coubertin didn’t hide his sexism. In 1912, he was already opposed to the participation of women: “The only true Olympic hero is the male individual. Female Olympics are unthinkable. They would be uninteresting, unathletic and incorrect. In the Olympic Games, their role must above all be, as in the ancient tournaments, to crown the victors.”

The first Olympic Games were reserved for whites. Coubertin, “a fanatical colonialist,” according to his own words, was a racist and open anti- (more…)


Aliby The Spark

With the death of Muhammad Ali, at the age of 74, the media have been filled with paeans about Ali’s “humanity,” his “courage,” his style, even his well-known lip.

The bitter irony is that the people praising him today are the same kind who attempted to put him in prison in 1967 and did strip him of his boxing title.

In early 1964, a brash young boxer named Cassius Clay burst on the public scene when he challenged champion Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship.

13315479_1054772057904315_3401281910900188624_nDespite 8-1 odds against him, Clay controlled the bout. With a graceful boxing finesse, he danced at a distance, causing Liston to swing wildly and miss. At the start of Round 7, Liston was not able to answer the bell, and Clay, who appeared to be unmarked, declared himself the winner.

Clay already had rubbed many reporters the wrong way with his outspoken and confident style outside the ring. But right after his crushing victory, he announced, with Malcolm X by his side, that he had joined the Nation of Islam. Soon he announced he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

The racists in and out of the press attacked him.

But Ali became a hero to (more…)

The article below first appeared in the Backtalk section of issue #3 of the magazine revolution, August/September 1997. While 18 years old, it deals with issues that are still very much with us.

by Grant Cronin

downloadThere has been much hoopla in the media recently about the victories of Aranui High School’s First XV and their success in this year’s under-18 competition. This media coverage reached a climax with the arrival of the All Blacks in Christchurch to play the Bledisloe Cup test against Australia, as the Aranui team got to meet and train with the All Blacks. The Christchurch Mail of July 3, for instance, ran a picture of the captain of the Aranui team, Daniel Iosefo, shaking hands with Sean Fitzpatrick.

While there is much to applaud in the Aranui team’s victories over the horse-faced sons of the ruling class – and the complaints of parents from the elite schools about ‘hard tackling’ by Aranui players provide a good laugh – the important battles in society are not won and lost on the footy field. In spite of their rugby success Aranui remains one of the poorest schools in Christchurch and the community it serves is still trapped in a spiral of poverty, unemployment and poor health.

While the students of St Andrews and Christchurch Boys meet the Aranui players as equals on the field, in the wider society the story is much different. What this means is that, in the face of (more…)

Brazil-protests Demonstrators protest while holding crosses bearing the names of construction workers who died while building World Cup stadiums.

Brazil: Protesters hold crosses bearing the names of construction workers who died while building World Cup stadiums.

by Harley Filben

Football has been a very political sport in Brazil: at times, it has been a focal point for nation-building and state prestige; at others, for democratic resistance to military rule. The appointment of managers to the national team has been loaded with political significance. And the 2014 World Cup is probably even more political for Brazil than it usually is for the host country.

By the time Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1825, the latter was already almost defunct as a first-rank world power. It had been reduced to a dependency of the British empire, a sort of imperial sub-contractor and, as Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America separated themselves off from their Iberian masters, they immediately found themselves falling under British influence – a pattern of semi-colonial dependence that has, since World War II, become very familiar to us.

British influence manifested itself, naturally, not only through global political alignment, but also through far more important matters – British expatriates brought with them their football. The Brazilian elite identified itself as white and European, unlike the masses. Football, at that time, was still heavily associated with the English public school system: an interregnum between its origins as a peasant sport and later existence as a mass, popular phenomenon.

Apocryphally, the Duke of Wellington is supposed to have said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton; English sport in this form was admired by those with an attachment to aristocratic elitism, including also Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics. As an ex-colony with aspirations to greatness, Brazil’s metropolitan elites took to football very rapidly.

Rapidly, as well, it spread out to wider society. The first football clubs in Brazil had been founded in the 1890s; by 1910, São Paulo railway workers founded Corinthians FC, named after a London club touring the country. By the end of the 1930s, Brazil was fielding a (more…)


by Don Franks

Today was supposed to be a really nice day.

It was sunny and I had no students booked in to come round home for guitar lessons. And it was the first day of the cricket test. So I cut some lunch and shook a couple of nectarines off the tree and said goodbye to Jill and Foxy the cat and set off to the Basin Reserve for the first day of the contest.

Well, we lost the toss and as you know all the rest is history, but some seminal bits of history don’t make it into the books do they.

When I arrived at the Basin it was 10.30, just when they have the toss. Me and a whole bunch of other slightly eccentric looking elderly men and a few women had to wait patiently behind a rope while the toss was made.  During which the loudspeaker told us the PM  was out there in the middle with them.


Toss over and lost, all the wee clump of dignitaries came back past our rope to go back in the important people’s door. The team captains, media commentators, news readers and (more…)

"It's OK, he's on our side!"

“It’s OK, he’s on our side!”

Mandela and another fan







by Philip Ferguson

(This is an updated version of an article which first appeared on Liberation blog; several new paragraphs have been added)

The death of Nelson Mandela has had a strange impact in New Zealand.  It has received massive media coverage on TV and in the papers.  The Christchurch Press, which supported the 1981 Springbok tour and regarded the ANC as terrorists, devoted its entire front cover to a sombre picture of Mandela, on a black background, with a special four-page tribute section inside.

A high-level government delegation is attending the Mandela funeral.  It’s led by prime minister John ‘I can’t remember where I was and which side I was on in 1981’ Key, and includes Maori Party founding co-leader Pita Sharples and 1990s National Party prime minister Jim Bolger, who was part of the government which oversaw the 1981 tour and turned on levels of repression not seen in New Zealand for decades.  Bolger, of course, when he was prime minister in the 1990s, apologised for that tour and said it should never have gone ahead.  Key’s amnesia, (more…)



Students murdered by state forces in Mexico City on the eve of the 1968 Olympics

by Philip Ferguson

Today, October 16, marks the 45th anniversary of one of the smallest but most dramatic protests of the 1960s, the clenched fist salute on the 200 metres victory dais at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  To understand what happened and why it became so famous, some context is necessary.

1968 was a year of rebellions across the face of the globe.  In January 1968, the Vietnamese liberation forces struck hard against the US-led occupation forces and Washington’s puppet regime in Saigon, launching the Tet Offensive.

Early in the year events began in Czechoslovakia which led to the ‘Prague Spring’.  A radical student movement, demanding more democracy and equality, emerged in Yugoslavia.  In France, students and workers shook the French capitalist establishment to its core in May and June.  Students rebelled in Italy, and workers; struggles increased there too.

Even in sleepy New Zealand, the workers’ movement stirred back into life after 17 quiet years following the defeat of the wharfies and their allies in 1951.  The nil general wage order of that year resulted in significant workers’ protests here, while student radicalism began to stir as well.

In Latin America, students, workers and peasants fought against repressive regimes and faced torture, death and imprisonment at the hands of these regimes, including in Mexico itself (see here).

In the United States, 1967 had seen the first sizable US casualties in the Vietnam War and the movement against the war was growing on the campuses, on the streets, in workplaces and in ghettos and barrios across the country.  While some significant civil rights legislation had been won as a result of mass demonstrations and direct action – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – the mass of black Americans remained on the receiving end of substantial institutionalised racism, including in sport.  Ghetto rebellions had grown since the 1965 Watts revolt in Los Angeles, and were by 1968 a regular part of life in the United States, with a particularly large revolt in Newark in 1967.  By 1968 the Capitol building in Washington had a mounted machine-gun post on it.

In Australia, students and workers were stirring again.  Workplace issues, the Vietnam War, the nature of campus courses and authority, and issues of Aboriginal rights were coming to the fore.  The situation of Aboriginals was, if anything, even worse than that of blacks in the United States.  Not surprisingly, some of the tactics of the US civil rights movement began to be deployed across the ditch, for instance freedom rides.

This then was the global situation in which the October Olympics took place in Mexico City in 1968.  Of particular relevance to this article is the American and Australian situation, because these led to one of the most dramatic symbolic protests of the 1960s.

Dais protest

Among black American athletes, who faced segregation within their own sports within the US, including within the overall US team at the Olympics, there was discussion about boycotting the Olympics.  However, most black athletes (more…)