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The Olympics: Boycotting South Africa

2 minute read

A mini-Olympics? That was the possibility last week as no fewer than 39 nations announced that they would boycott next October’s Mexico City games in protest over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to readmit South Africa. Banned in 1963 for its Apartheid policies—in sport as in everything else—South Africa has now promised to field a fully integrated team of black, white and Colored athletes who would live, eat, march and compete together. But South Africa’s Olympics trials will still be segregated, and its neighbors are unsatisfied. Complaining that black South African Olympians would be merely “trained monkeys who would be shown at the fair,” the 32-nation African Supreme Council for Sports met in Brazzaville and voted unanimously to skip the games.

The 32 were joined by seven other nations—Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Somalia. And there was no telling how many more might quit. India was threatening to pull out; so was the Soviet Union. The U.S. was committed to competing—but some Negro athletes were certain to boycott on their own. With all that pressure, at week’s end, crustaceous I.O.C. Chairman Avery Brundage reluctantly agreed to put the question of a second vote on South Africa up to his executive committee.

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