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35 Alternative L.J. 235 (2010)
Sport and the Law - Sport and Human Rights: Closer than you Think

handle is hein.journals/alterlj35 and id is 243 raw text is: SPORT ANDTHE LAW
Sport and Human Rights:
Closer than you think

People who whinge about the importance placed by Australians
on sport just don't get it. Sport is pure joy ... like watching
John Aloisi score a penalty to put Australia through to the
World Cup for the first time in 34 years. Sport is cruel, as it
has been for St Kilda supporters in watching two losing grand
finals, interspersed with an oh-you-can't get-any-closer draw,
to continue a 44-year premiership drought. Sport is loyalty ...
like explaining to my young nephew why he just can't switch
sides when watching a Grand Final. Sport is history ... like the
Boston Red Sox breaking the 86 year 'curse of the Bambino' by
winning baseball's World Series in 2004 (and I wonder if Red
Sox fans secretly miss their 'specialness', now that the curse is
broken. The Chicago Cubs on the other hand ...). And once
one looks beneath all of the emotions, sport is sometimes
about human rights.
The Commonwealth Games were just held in Delhi. We heard
a lot about the supposed substandard state of the facilities, the
likelihood of terrorism (more on which, below), and eventually,
Australia's high medal count. We heard a lot less about the
human rights impacts on the people of Delhi from the holding
of the Games. Child labour, appalling working conditions
resulting in deaths, the city's poor unceremoniously evicted and
hidden behind walls during the Games ... the Commonwealth
Secretariat had little to say about these matters. And clearing
people out of the way to make way for mega events is not
new: the same occurred for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
Indeed, there were reports of police harassment of young
people and the homeless in the wake of the Sydney Olympics.
On the Beijing Olympics, I can't help but wonder whether
the world missed a chance with China to prompt some
meaningful human rights change in that country. Yes, I know
all the arguments about not mixing sport and politics. And an
Olympic boycott, having seen three between 1976 and 1984,
is a downer. But perhaps some pressure could have been
applied in the early days after China was awarded the Games.
Certainly, it was too late by the time 2008 dawned, as seen by
the nationalistic backlash within China against protests aimed at
the Olympic flame as it made its way around the world. But, in
principle, is it really wrong to suggest that some sort of human
rights guarantees should be built into an award of the Games to
a country? At least perhaps a guarantee that human rights are
not violated because of the Games?
After all, sporting boycotts can play their role in the expression
of disapproval of a State's human rights record, and perhaps
even in convincing that State to change its ways. South Africa
had to contend with numerous boycotts beyond sport, and
it is difficult to isolate the precise causes behind the decision
to abandon apartheid. But it must have hurt that sport-loving
country to not be able to play cricket, or rugby, or indeed any
game against other States. There were rebel cricket tours, but

they can't have been particularly satisfying given the number of
has-beens on those teams. Mind you - sport boycotts have to
pick their target. I doubt Burma would care too much about a
boycott of its teams. But if the international community ever
really wanted to push Australia on a human rights issue ... a
sporting boycott could be remarkably effective!
It is worth briefly commenting in this post-September I I
world that sporting events are believed to be a particularly
attractive target for terrorists. So far the effect of terrorism
on sport has been more disruptive (such as greater security
at events and the relocation of the Indian Premier League
cricket to South Africa for a season) rather than devastating,
with tragic exceptions such as the attack in Pakistan on the
Sri Lankan cricket team, the attack on the Togo soccer team
en route to the African Cup of Nations in Angola, and, long
before September I I, the bomb at the Atlanta Olympics and
the murders of II members of the Israeli team at the Munich
Olympics. Indeed, perhaps we can be proud of how safe
sporting events have in fact been despite the spectre of terror
being raised before every major event. It was speculated that
there was an 80 per cent chance of a terrorist attack in Delhi
during the Commonwealth Games ... there were none.
Moving from the mega event to the individual, sportspeople
have suffered for their conscience. Australian sprinter Peter
Norman famously supported his fellow medallists, Americans
Tommy Smith and John Carlos, in their iconic black power
salute at the medal presentation for the 200m men's sprint at
the Mexico City Olympics. instead of being congratulated for
his stance against racism, Norman was never selected for the
Olympics again. Smith and Carlos were similarly punished by
US athletics bodies. Two brave Zimbabwean cricketers, Andy
Flower and Henry Olonga, protested against Robert Mugabe
by wearing black armbands and publicly mourning 'the death
of democracy'. They have been charged with the capital
crime of treason and are effectively exiled from their country.
Some on the Iranian soccer team donned green wristbands
in a World Cup qualifier in 2009 in open support for the
beleaguered Iranian opposition: the consequences for those
footballers are still playing themselves out but, at the least,
their careers are not looking so rosy. Thankfully the Australian
Cricket Board took a more enlightened stance in not punishing
Stuart MacGill when he pulled out of a tour of Zimbabwe
in protest against that country's human rights record. And
other Australians have impressed by taking a stand, such as Ian
Roberts, still the only openly gay current or ex-player from
either of Australia's major football leagues. Furthermore, the
refusal by AFL players such as Nicky Winmar and Michael
Long to tolerate racial abuse in the 1990s has led directly to
the current situation at AFL grounds, where racial abuse is
effectively policed by the crowd itself.
AItLJ Vol 35:4 2010 - 235

REGULARS

SARAH JOSEPH

-ow/anme

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