The Long History of Olympic Boycotts, Protests and Demonstrations

Geopolitics have always been associated with the Olympics, and this year will be no exception.



Above: Students in a burned out bus in Tlatelolco Plaza.

1968: Ten days prior to the beginning of the games, students protested the Mexican government for violence against young people, but the government retaliated. Mexican police and military fired into a crowd of unarmed students, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 200 young people (the final body count was never confirmed). Thousands more fled as tanks took over Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City. Thousands of students disappeared, and many were beaten and jailed.

The same year, American track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos (pictured above) protested on the medal stand, very famously. They were taking a stand for being able to represent their country at the Olympic games but unable to be treated like full citizens in their home country because of their race. However, due to Rule 50 — the same rule that the International Olympic Committee has threatened athletes with for the Sochi games — Smith and Carlos were stripped of their medals by the U.S. Olympic Committeee, after threats to disqualify the entire Team USA for their protest. Also in protest, Lew Alcindor (who we all now know as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) decided not to compete on the U.S. basektball team in 1968 despite being offered a spot.