Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Top 10 politically-divisive sporting moments

Formula One refused to budge on its commitment to holding a grand prix in Bahrain despite the teams competing against a background of violence and protests against the ruling family. The controversy moved the Herald on Sunday sports team to look at a top 10 of politically-divisive moments in sporting history.

ONE: Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz

The Pole vaulter - a godsend for headline writers - created a diplomatic incident at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when he delivered a bras d'honneur (bending his right arminto an L-shape while gripping his bicep with the other hand and raising vertically) to a hostile local crowd after guaranteeing himself the gold medal. The Soviets wanted their man KonstantinVolkov to win, so booed and whistled whenever the Pole vaulted. In English, the act is best described as "up yours" but in Polish, it is known as gest Kozakiewicz (Kozakiewicz's gesture).

Minutes later, he broke the world record with a vault of 5.78m. The Soviet authorities were not amused. The ambassador to Poland demanded Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal for an "insult to the Soviet people". The official government response was to describe the gesture as an "involuntary muscle spasm" caused by exertion. He was subsequently named Polish sportsperson of the year.
-Andrew Alderson

TWO: African boycott of 1976 Olympics

New Zealand has never been as central to the heart of an international sporting conflict. The All Blacks' 1976 tour of South Africa unleashed a political storm which saw 28 African nations boycott the Games, despite most having travelled to host city Montreal. The argument was based upon principles being more precious than medals.

South Africa had been banned from the Olympics since 1964 for refusing to condemn apartheid. The All Blacks toured with the Robert Muldoon Government's consent, defying United Nations calls for a complete sporting embargo.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee argued the New Zealand Rugby Union were an autonomous body separate to the Games and referred to plenty of other countries who had also played sport in South Africa in the previous year. The Africans weren't buying it. It prevented the world seeing one of the greatest potential showdowns in Olympic history between Sir John Walker and Tanzanian Filbert Bayi. Walker won but world record holder Bayi had been expected to provide tough competition.
-Andrew Alderson

THREE: Black Power salutes at 1968 Mexico City Olympics

1968 had been a year of protest across the world, be it for civil rights, standards of living, justice or racial equality. American leaders

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated and thousands had demonstrated (with many also losing their lives) in Prague, Paris and even Mexico City just days before the Games.

Tommie Smith won the 200m in world record time (19.83s) and fellow American John Carlos came third. They staged a silent protest on the dais as part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

The pair wore black socks and no shoes to denote African-American poverty. They raised black-gloved fists above bowed heads during the national anthem. Smith raised his right hand and Carlos his left because Carlos had forgotten to bring his gloves from the village - Australian silver medallist, the late Peter Norman, suggested the idea just before they walked up.

Smith and Carlos paid for their protest with expulsion from the village and suspension by the US Olympic Committee. Both received death threats. Smith stated in his autobiography Silent Gesture that it was not in fact a "black power" salute but a "human rights salute". Their efforts were not in vain. History now sees it as a brave act to push for more racial equality and justice in the US and across the world.
-Andrew Alderson

FOUR: Basil D'Oliveira vs South Africa's apartheid regime

Again it happened in 1968. D'Oliveira was a batting all-rounder who grew up in South Africa but could not play first-class cricket because of his status as a Cape coloured player. He emigrated for a first-class and 44-test career in England but was dropped from the England side to tour South Africa on the basis his bowling would not be effective in his native country. A Guardian newspaper editorial responded by saying "anyone who would swallow that would believe the moon was a current bun".

Broadcasting legend John Arlott wrote it raised issues that it "is the duty of English cricket to be above suspicion . . . it would be naive of the MCC or anyone else to think his omission without good reason would pass without public protest".

The real reasons were that South African cricket officials put pressure on theMarylebone Cricket Club not to pick D'Oliveira.TheMCCobliged but eventually reneged on the deal and sent him. South African Prime Minister John Vorster refused him entry and the MCC called off the tour. It was the catalyst which led to South Africa's expulsion from international cricket between 1970-91.
-Andrew Alderson

FIVE: Charlie Dempsey's abstention

The Oceania Football Federation is not by any stretch a serious power in the global scheme of things. But in 2000, this tiny organisation became the focal point of world football when OFC president Charlie Dempsey abstained from casting his vote and effectively handed the 2006 World Cup hosting rights to Germany ahead of an outraged South Africa.

South African bid chairman Irvin Khoza said Dempsey had "betrayed the South African people" and called for Fifa to investigate. "I do not see how a man can vote in the first two rounds and then not in the third and final round."

The South Africans were bidding against England and Germany for the hosting rights and Dempsey, following the orders of the OFC, voted for England in the first two rounds. Once England were eliminated, Dempsey was under orders to switch allegiance to South Africa. But instead he didn't vote-meaning Germany won by one vote. Had Dempsey followed orders, the vote would have been tied and Fifa chairman Sepp Blatter would almost certainly have used his casting vote in favour of South Africa.

"I had very strong reasons but I'm not going into them," Dempsey said after the scandal broke.

"I didn't do it lightly. I don't make decisions like that lightly." Dempsey would later say that he had come under "intolerable pressure" in the lead-up to the vote and that he feared allegations of bribery would surface had he followed orders. That claim was never fully bought: "It doesn't seem logical," New Zealand's Minister for Sport Trevor Mallard said. "We are having trouble understanding why he did what he did."
-Gregor Paul

SIX: Springbok tour of New Zealand 1981

For 56 days, New Zealand was at war with itself-the country evenly split between those who opposed hosting the Springboks and those who felt sport and politics should not mix. New Zealand has never known social unrest like it.

The game against Waikato was called off after protesters stormed into the middle of Rugby Park and held their position long enough for police to cancel proceedings. The following week in Wellington, police were heavy-handed with batons as they tried to 'subdue' protesters attempting to cause more disruption. The tour finished with a protester dropping flour bombs on Eden Park to try to force the abandonment of the third and deciding test. Most of the ire was a result of New Zealand's willingness to break the Gleneagles Agreement they had signed with other Commonwealth countries in 1977.

That agreement stated: "[It is] the urgent duty of each of their Governments vigorously to combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or from any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin." But there was also historic resentment for the way the NZRU had agreed in the past to leave Maori players athometo satisfy the South Africans.

There was also humiliation in 1970 when the NZRU held its ground, picked Maori players Buff Milner, Blair Furlong and Sid Going, and Bryan Williams, who was Samoan, but allowed them to be classified by the South Africans as 'honorary whites'.

Families were divided and friends lost across New Zealand by the 1981 tour. It also damaged rugby's reputation for years to come and led to the cancellation of the proposed 1985 All Black tour to South Africa.
-Gregor Paul

SEVEN: Adolf Hitler and Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics

Historians and journalists have disputed the truth about the 1936 Olympics for 75 years without consensus being reached. The popular view is that German fuhrer Adolf Hitler famously snubbed the Games' undisputed superstar, Jesse Owens, because he was black. The Berlin Games had a major sub-plot-they were all about Nazi Germany showcasing its Aryan supremacy. Hitler had been adamant that the Olympics would be the ideal opportunity to prove that. Hitler is alleged to have stormed out of the stadium when Owens won the 100m final. Hitler had shaken the hands of all the previous day's winners.

There was no way, however, he could be seen to congratulate a black athlete. But in time, other views have emerged. It has been argued that while Hitler congratulated a host of German, Finnish and other white athletes, he was reprimanded by Olympic organisers for doing so and asked to subsequently congratulate everyone or no one. He chose to congratulate no one. Owens, who died in 1980, said he had enjoyed his time in Berlin, receiving a standing ovation for his achievement of winning four gold medals (100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m). "When I passed the Chancellor, he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticising the man of the hour in Germany," Owens is reported to have said. None of this has been able to shake the popular perception of Hitler snubbing Owens and the 1936 Olympics being the subject of several novels and films.
-Gregor Paul

EIGHT: Germany 1 Austria 0, 1982 World Cup

This infamous clash led to an overhaul of Fifa World Cup rules. Going into the last round of group games, Algeria had high hopes of becoming the first African nation to progress to the second round, after shocking European champions Germany 2-1 and beating Chile 3-2. Unfortunately for the Algerians, the Germany-Austria match was played the day after their win over Chile, meaning the European neighbours knew exactly what was required for both to progress. Die Mannschaft needed a win, while the Austrians just needed to avoid a heavy defeat. After an early German goal, the game resembled a training session punctuated by back passes and aimless passing in their own halves. In the second half, there wasn't a single shot or cross.

"What is happening here is disgraceful and has nothing to do with football," said a German television commentator. "You can say what you like but not every end justifies the means." An Austrian counterpart instructed viewers to turn off their TV sets and refused to speak for the final 30 minutes. The football world was outraged, but the two teams were unrepentant. "We have gone through," said Lothar Matthaeus, "that's all that counts." The head of the Austrian delegation came up with this gem: "Naturally today's game was played tactically. But if 10,000 sons of the desert here in the stadium want to trigger a scandal because of this . . . some sheikh comes out of an oasis, is allowed to get a sniff of World Cup air after 300 years and thinks he's entitled to open his gob." Fifa refused to annul the result or replay the match but the controversy forced a change in the rules and all final group games have since been played simultaneously.
-Michael Burgess

NINE: El Salvador vs Honduras, 1969 World Cup qualifier

In 1969, relations between the Central American neighbours were already on a knife edge before a football match was the catalyst for a war that would see thousands perish. El Salvador defeated Honduras 3-2 in a playoff in Mexico City to knock them out of contention for the 1970 World Cup after the teams had shared home and away games that were marked by rioting in both capitals. In the aftermath of the result, El Salvador suspended all ties with Honduras, citing ongoing issues over land reform, immigration and border demarcation.

Less than a fortnight later, the two countries were at war; the conflict had its bizarre touches, with the Salvadoreans using passenger aircraft with bomb delivery vessels strapped to their sides and both nations using American planes that had last been sighted inWorldWar II or the Korean War. Four days later, a ceasefire was successfully negotiated but the war had cost the lives of an estimated 3000 people.
-Michael Burgess

TEN: Hungary vs USSR, water polo, 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Just a few weeks after Soviet tanks had rolled into Budapest to quell a revolution against the USSR, these two nations clashed in the pool at the Olympics in a semifinal that became known as the Blood in the Water match. The Hungarians were reigning Olympic champions and a superpower of the sport but had much more than a gold medal on their minds. Tension had been building between the two sides over the previous year, especially when Moscow had sent the Soviet team to Hungary, essentially to copy their training methods.

At the time of the uprising, which had begun with a student protest and for a time looked as though it might be successful, the players were in a training camp in the mountains above Budapest.They could see the smoke and hear the gunshots and tanks but were thenmoved to Czechoslovakia. Cut off from any news, they learned the fate of family and friends only after they arrived in Australia. The anti-Soviet sentiment in the stadium was bolstered by the presence of immigrant Hungarians as well as plenty of locals and Americans.

There was frequent kicking and punching, culminating in Hungary's Ervin Zador being smashed in the face by RussianValentin Prokopov in the last two minutes with Hungary ahead 4-0. Zador left the pool with blood streaming from a gash to his face (and would miss the final), while the enraged crowd had to be held back by police as they invaded the concourse to spit at and abuse the Soviets. Hungary won their fourth Olympic gold in the sport and Zador would later coach a teenage Mark Spitz.
-Michael Burgess

- Herald on Sunday

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