A number of my posts have been about the authoritarian politics and corruption of the modern-day Olympics. But there is always another side to the Games, the sporting contest in which different values struggle to break through. With that in mind, here are three people who I would like to see do well at this year’s event:
Bahaa al-Farra (above) will be running the 400 metres for Palestine. He has a personal best of 49.04 seconds in the 400 metres (about six seconds outside the world record). More details of his training regime here. And there’s am interview with him here in Arabic with English subtitles: “the sieze of Gaza”, he says, “will be broken with our will and determination”
Caster Semanya, who won the women’s 800 metres at the 2009 world championships by nearly 50 metres, but then had to endure a whispering campaign to the effect that she is a man, a rumour refuted in this interview with her mother. As the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has written, “She also stands in a long line of gender variant people who threaten the very definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and call into question the ways that we organize our sports, our toy stores, and even the pink and blue cribs in our nurseries.”
Caster’s times this year have been relatively slow; but if she is ready for London, she is capable of outrunning anyone.
Finally, if anyone in Britain seeks a “Cathy Freeman” moment, Mo Farah came to Britain as a child refugee from Somalia, and grew up here in a political climate where refugees were routinely jailed, denied the opportunity to work, and deported from the country on the flimsiest of pretexts. Here’s Mo winning the 5k at the 2011 world championships. Farah of course will have to do something pretty extraordinary to beat the Bekele brothers over 10k, but, if he does, anti-racists in Britain should be proud of him.