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July 31, 2012 > The Olympic Games: Politics at Play

The Olympic Games: Politics at Play

Submitted By Johanna Fassbender

The Olympics are here, along with the potential for history to be made on and off the field. Hayward Area Historical Society, in collaboration with Castro Valley Library, will present, The Olympic Games: Politics at Play, a presentation by Rita Liberti, a sports historian in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, East Bay, on the connection between the Olympic Games and social issues. The program takes place at 2 p.m. on August 4 at the Castro Valley Library and is free to the public.

As the 2012 summer Olympic Games continue, people around the world anticipate and look forward to the action for its keen competition, interesting stories, and amazing athleticism. In addition, many are drawn to the Olympics, like sports in general, because it is viewed as a place and time where politics and world problems are forgotten and put on hold. Sport is thought to be mere amusement with the Games unifying the world's nations and its people. Of course, the Olympics are not and have never been immune, or detached from broader social and political issues.

In her presentation, Professor Liberti will explore the history of the Olympics intersecting with social issues, looking specifically at the 1960s. As the Civil Rights Movement grew in intensity over the decade, African Americans fought for racial equality and justice off the athletic fields of play as well as on them. This may be best illustrated through the actions of two local student-athletes, San Jose State's, John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Their raised black glove salute on the medal stand, in protest of racial injustice, at the 1968 Games drew praise from some and severe condemnation from others. Many were especially angry that these athletes marred the Olympics by bringing civil rights issues into the Olympic arena. For Smith, Carlos, and many others, however, the Olympics were seen as the place most suited for political protest.

On the faculty since 1998, Professor Liberti has taught a range of courses on sport and culture. Her primary research interest centers on 20th century women's sport history, specifically the experiences of African American women. She is currently co-authoring a book entitled, Re(presenting) Wilma Rudolph, which explores the ways in which the 1960 triple gold medalist at the Rome Olympics has been represented and remembered over the past half-century. In addition to her teaching and research activities, Liberti also directs the Center for Sport and Social Justice on campus.

The Hayward Area Historical Society (HAHS) preserves the diverse history of the Hayward, Castro Valley, and San Lorenzo area. Through educational programs, interpretive exhibitions, and the preservation of historic sites and artifacts, HAHS shows the relevance of events that happened in the past to our community today.

For additional information regarding The Olympic Games: Politics at Play, contact Johanna Fassbender at 510-581-0223 or visit

The Olympic Games: Politics at Play
Saturday, Aug 4
2 p.m.
Castro Valley Library
3600 Norbridge Ave., Castro Valley
(510) 667-7900 (Library)
(510) 581-0223

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