The Black Olympic Games?


As the closing ceremony drew to an end the London 2012 Games, for Black Britons and Black people around the world, especially in the tiny Caribbean island of Jamaica, this will be an Olympic Games that will last in the memory for generations.

The London 2012 Olympic Games will mean a lot of things to a lot of different people - and so they should. For example, 80,000 spectators spontaneously rose to their feet to applaud the Saudi Arabian female 800 metre athlete Sarah Attar, not because she did well, she came last, but rather because as a Saudi woman her greatest challenge was just being there to compete.

Her female team mate, Wojdan Shaherkan, was initially banned from the games for wearing the hijab; yet unwilling to be defeated they both found a way to comply with the rules whilst maintaining their religious dignity. Olympic supporters like nothing more than great acts of sporting bravery and this was certainly one.

On a more broader note, the 'greatest show on earth', never fails to disappoint. Skill, passion and drama of the highest order meant that we were glued to the screen watching sports that ordinarily we would never give the time of day to, including archery, weightlifting, table tennis, and perhaps the strangest looking of all events - the walking race.

And yet who could not feel compassion for Olga Kaniskina, the Russian female athlete who led the 20km race walk right up until the last few metres only to be over taken by her team mate. The enormity of what had occurred physically left her slumped to the ground heartbroken, crestfallen, she wept inconsolably.

Back home, team GB surpassed all expectations on every level. The amount of medals, the variety of sports, the gold standard, placed us above teams we rarely beat at any sport, much less the greatest showcase; the Olympic Games.

A key aspect of the Olympic spirit is it’s democratic and meritocratic values.

If you’re the fastest, jump the longest, the highest, throw the furthest, you win. Simple as that. Well not quite.

With so many different sports now on show at the Games some activities favour the privileged, the well heeled. The equestrian events stand out in particular, but there are others too including tennis, sailing, and rowing. We need to say at this point there's no question of diminishing the supreme efforts of those sporting individuals; the joy of success is no more than any other, the pain in defeat no less.

But it is the sports that truly resonant with the original Greek Olympiads that still have the power to be all consuming. Many of these events are the traditional track and field events, the gladiatorial contests, all of which to this day still rely more on natural born talent coupled with hard work than economic and social privilege.

Here Black Britain, the high altitude African nations, African Americans, and the Caribbeans excelled. In a world so shockingly unequal, unfair, skewed with a global narrative that has sought to collective deny the persistent privilege -this was our moment to shine. The African diaspora showed the world what it can do when the shackles of inequality are cut loose.

For me there were too many moving moments to recount but three stood out: First; being in the stadium to watch Usain Bolt. I took my son and we sneakily side tracked the officials to find two empty seats at the front of the track. I was tempted, like most to look through the lens of my camera and try and get that one special picture.

In the end I thought I want to see with my own eyes the greatest sprinter that ever lived. Nothing can prepare you for watching this most majestic athlete take the 200 metre bend. It’s no exaggeration to think he’s super human. Second, was Mo Farah’s Mo-Bot gesture after winning his first goal medal: right there cloaked around the Union flag and the place to which he now calls home, he wanted the world to know, that ‘this is who I am’.

Last but not least, occurred when the Jamaican 200 metre athletes stood shoulder to shoulder after their historic win. Without any prompt in their moment of global glory they chose to thank the people of Birmingham. Most Black people acutely understood what they meant. Yes, they were thanking all Brummies, but it was the love from the Caribbean diaspora located in the West Midlands that was being fantastically acknowledged.

This feel good factor sadly won’t last long. The economic and social reality will focus people’s plight and anxiety, but let’s ensure it lasts a little longer. The glorious London 2012 Olympic Games where we simply shone!

Simon Woolley

Archived Comments

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before bashing the immigrants, remember Mo is an immigrant

Before any of the UK tabloids journalists carrying out more bashing of the immigrants, just remember that Mo is an immigrant and many of the UK gold medallists are children of immigrants, they have achieved what they have at the Olympic London 2012, with sheer merit and hard work against all odds in their lives.

We salute them.

Correct Facts.


The information on Mo Farah on Wikipedia seems to conflict with your claim that Mo Farah is an immigrant. In actual fact, it states that his father was born in Hounslow, London, England and grew up there: Everyone in England is a product of migration in one form or another. The children of immigrants as you claim were born in the United Kingdom and love this country. Their efforts should be respected and the usage of such language like "children of immigrants" should have a pride of place in a garbage bin.