Sunday, September 04, 2016

Protests at the 1968 Olympics: the Podium Protest Against America Is Remembered, Even Sanctified, While the Protest Against the Kremlin Is Forgotten

If you were told to speak about Olympians protesting against their country, whether you were American or not, you would likely remember the black and white 1968 photo of a Black Power salute raised on the winners' podium. By two Olympic sprinters who are referred to nowadays as nothing less than heroes.

So, it is amazing to learn (Dekuji, Instapundit) that there was another protest on a podium that year, one by a Czech Olympian, indeed by record-holding superstar Věra Čáslavská, against the USSR.

As the Daily Telegraph tells it,
her competitive career, however, came to an abrupt end over her public opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

 … Vera almost did not make it to the Mexico games. In April 1968, she had signed a declaration protesting at Soviet involvement in Czechoslovakia.

When the Red Army invaded in August, two months before the start of the games, she was in a training camp in Moravia and, told she might be arrested, went into hiding in the forests where she maintained her fitness by lifting bags of coal, swinging from tree branches and even practising her floor routine in a field.

“A tree that had fallen became my beam,” she recalled. “I ran up to vault on a forest path. I turned the forest into a gym.”

A last minute change of heart by the Czech regime allowed her to join the rest of the team in Mexico City in time for the opening Olympic ceremony in October.

After all, they could hardly ignore an athlete who had single-handedly won Czechoslovakia three out of its five gold medals (in all-around gymnastics, vault and beam) at the 1964 Olympics.
[Read also about the Soviets' method for winning medals:
Doctors had discovered that pregnant women could gain an advantage in muscle power, suppleness and lung capacity, because they produced more red blood cells. In 1994 Olga Kovalenko, a gold medal winner at the 1968 Olympics, told a German television interviewer that all the members of the Soviet women’s gymnastic team, two of whom were 15 at the time, had been forced to become pregnant before the Olympics: if they did not have a husband or boyfriend, they were made to have sex with a male coach. Anyone who refused was thrown off the team. After 10 weeks of pregnancy every gymnast had an abortion. … “In any other country it would have been called rape,” one of the Soviet coaches admitted later.]

 … Meanwhile, when she went up to receive the gold medal for her floor exercises, the news was broadcast that the score of the Soviet Union’s Larisa Petrik had been upgraded and the two would share the title. When the Soviet Union’s national anthem was played, Vera Caslavska stood with her head down and turned away in a silent but unmistakable protest.

On her return to Prague she gave her four gold medals to the Czech leaders of the “Prague Spring”, who had been replaced by Soviet puppets. Retribution was swift. She was barred from travelling abroad and for many years denied any coaching post, bringing an end to her international career.
Is it wrong to point out that most American protestors protesting against "oppression" never incurred such ignominy?

Moreover, while the images of Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting on the podium are ubiquitous, a Google Image search for Caslavska finds next to nothing of her standing with her head down and turned away as the Soviet anthem plays (I had to take two screen shots of  an ABC video to get the ones on this post).

And why is the general public, inside the United States as well as outside, not familiar with this protest? Could it be because it was against a communist nation, whose leaders had "good intentions", as well as because it would be distract from the true menace of the planet — that dastardly greedy capitalist society, the United States of America?