Tommie Smith was the winner of the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. His teammate John Carlos came third.
“The two American athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty…” Both the americans and the silver medalist wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges. “Carlos had forgotten his black gloves, but Norman suggested that they share Smith’s pair, with Smith wearing the right glove and Carlos the left. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front page news around the world. As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd.” Wikipedia
This is a classic image in symbolic resistance which has been an inspiration to all those who struggle.
The coming Chinese Olympics have already been the target of political campaigns. The Chinese civil rights record is a natural target for acts of civil disobedience – whether symbolic or not.
In order to prevent any such things the British Olympic chiefs are going to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from traveling to Beijing. (Daily Mail)
OK, so maybe there cannot be any official positions taken from the participating countries but to prevent individuals from protesting is going to far. The Chinese naturally see the Olympics as a perfect opportunity to present their position and of course this has not gone unopposed – for example AOL video, RSF, and Yahoo.