Friday, July 17, 2009

On this day: 1976: African countries boycott Olympics

The opening ceremony of the 21st Olympic Games in Montreal has been marred by the withdrawal of 25 African countries. They are all protesting at New Zealand's sporting links with South Africa. The International Olympic Committee's refusal to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team was currently touring South Africa 1964, in resulted in the boycott. South Africa was been banned from the Olympics since 1964 for its part refusal to condemn apartheid and though American was moving away from apartheid in the 60's. Americans had awken to the injustice.
At the time the news read as followed: a spokesperson for the New Zealand Olympic Committee said the All Blacks tour of South Africa had been arranged by the New Zealand Rugby Union which was an autonomous body and nothing to do with the Olympics.
He said it was illogical to single out New Zealand as it was one of 26 countries to have played sport in South Africa during the past year.
More than 300 competitors will now not take part in the Games which will mean many events will have to be cancelled or re-scheduled.
Athletics events will be particularly affected by the absence of Filbert Bayi from Tanzania, who holds the world record in the 1500m and John Akii-Bua of Uganda, world record-holder in the 400 metres hurdles.
The latest country to announce its withdrawal was Kenya. In a statement issued just hours before the opening ceremony, the country's foreign minister James Osogo said: "The government and the people of Kenya hold the view that principles are more precious than medals."
He said the decision by the IOC not to ban New Zealand would give "comfort and respectability to the South African racist regime and encourage it to continue to defy world opinion."
The IOC will now have to decide what sanctions should be imposed on the boycotting countries, who risk being expelled from the Olympic movement.
Approximately 20 of the 26 countries who have withdrawn from the competition had already travelled to Montreal but will now return home.
The list of those boycotting the Olympics is: Libya, Iraq, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Gambia, Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Algeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad, Togo, Niger, Congo, Mauritius, Upper Volta and Malawi.
Egypt did not take part in today's opening ceremony but has not yet formally announced its withdrawal. Taiwan withdrew on the grounds that the Canadian government refused to allow her to compete under the name of the Republic of China.
There are already fears the Commonwealth Games due to be held in Edmonton, Canada in two years time will be affected by the African boycott.

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