The Olympics Should Add Politics as an Event

In what was already a politically and culturally radical year, the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was the most politically charged athletic spectacular since the 1936 Games in Hitler’s Berlin.

As designers we think of Mexico ’68 as Lance Wyman’s brilliant design system for the logo and wayfinding:

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As radical left or even moderately liberal counter-culture white kids and African Americans the memory is of the American track medal winners, Tommie Smith (Gold) and John Carlos (Bronze), raising their leather-gloved Black Power fists, with their heads turned downward in what became one of the most ionic image-captures of the era.

 

 

Ten days before the Games were set to open, students protesting the Mexican government’s use of funds for the Olympics rather than for social programs were shot by police, who killed more than 200 protesters and wounded 1,000. At the victory ceremony for the men’s 200-metre run, after Smith and Carlos’ symbolic gesture, officials from the Olympic Committees reproached them for behavior counter to the ideals of the Games, barred them from the Olympic Village and sent them back home.

In France, protest over the Olympics was, as one would expect, frequent and caustic. L’Enrage, founded during the May 1968 Paris student and worker “uprising” by Jean-Jacques Pauvert and designed by Étienne Robial, lasted 12 issues and published new writers and cartoonists, including Sine, Reiser, Cabu, Topor, Wolinski (who was murdered in the assault on Charlie Hebdo) and Willem. It served as influence for such satiric protest journals as Hara-Kiri Hebdo, which became Charlie Hebdo.

L’Enrage was also the successor to a wealth of French satiric journals of the 19th Century, including La Caricature, La Lune, L’Eclipse, L’Assiette au Beurre and dozens more. All “enemies of injustice” and thorns in the side of the state.

 

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