London 2012 not about sports

It would appear that the London 2012 Olympic Games are about everything other than the sports. Well that’s what the view is from this side of the planet.

Each day our daily newspapers are filled with coverage from the Olympic Games. The only problem with the coverage is that it seems to focus more on what’s happening outside the various sporting arenas.  Too much attention has already been focused on what athletes are wearing, whether they’re in-shape, and what they’re saying on social media. There was even attention given to the clothing worn by former swimming champion Ian Thorpe on a morning talk show in the UK.

More recently it was controversy over whether an Australian boxer, Damien Hooper, who happens to be an Indigenous Australian, had broken the rules by wearing the Aboriginal Flag t-shirt.

Apparently this has become one of the big issues for Australians. You only need to read the mainstream newspapers’ Letters pages to see the kinds of reactions it is getting. Or you can visit the Facebook page for the Herald Sun and read the comments there (only do this if you can stomach stupid comments).

What amazes me most about this particular story are two things:

  1. The boxer wore the t-shirt into the arena but when you saw him boxing, it was in the ‘official’ Australian uniform; and
  2. Everyone seems to have ignored the fact that he won his bout.

It just goes to show that Australians, despite endlessly declaring their tolerance, aren’t very tolerant at all. He should be applauded not vilified. He has shown he is there to compete for Australia and what harm does it do to acknowledge he is Indigenous.

What’s that I hear, he’s not wearing an official flag on his t-shirt? Perhaps you should read something about it because the Aboriginal flag is in fact an official flag of Australia.,

It would seem the real controversy is that this man is putting into the international spotlight something that clearly makes certain sections of Australia very uncomfortable about issues like racism towards Indigenous Australians. Perhaps it makes certain sections of Australia uncomfortable because it might highlight the draconian Stronger Futures legislation and the extension of the Northern Territory Intervention (which needed the Racial Discrimination Act to be amended).

Maybe instead of complaining about a t-shirt perhaps we could start a conversation about recognising Indigenous Australians in our constitution. Perhaps we could start  a more mature discussion about the disadvantage experience by Indigenous Australians, reconciliation and the way forward.

Better still we could have focused on the fact that Damien Hooper won his bout and helped Australia get closer to another medal.

Personally I applaud him for having the courage to highlight the ongoing issues for his people, and I congratulate him on winning his bout.

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