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101 Pages

A–Z Glossary

ByALAN BAIRNER, GYOZO MOLNAR

The relationship between indigenous peoples and modern sport is problematic. On the one hand, involvement in modern sport is taken by some as evidence of assimilation. Alternatively, sport can be viewed as offering opportunities to native people denied to them in other spheres of life. Compounding this dilemma is the fact that racial discrimination represents a significant barrier to aboriginal sporting success in most parts of the world. The success of Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Games was in many ways the exception that proves the rule. Protests against the Games were arguably more significant in terms of drawing attention to the plight of aboriginal people in Australia as, indeed, are the ‘Black Olympics’ held each year since 1962-a sporting event organized by and for aborigines. Similarly, whilst only one competitor of aboriginal descent, Monica Pinette, represented Canada at the Athens Games in 2004, separate sporting events in North America ensure the maintenance of a distinct native athletic identity. Arguably, the two most famous aboriginal Olympians both represented the USA. Jim Thorpe (Wa-Tho-Huk) won gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon at the Stockholm Games in 1912. He was subsequently found guilty of professionalism and stripped of his medals. Not until 1982 were the medals posthumously returned to Thorpe’s family and his name restored to the record books. In 1964, at the Tokyo Games, the 10,000 metres was won by Billy Mills, a Sioux who was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A film of his life-Running Brave-was made in 1984. Mills is co-founder and spokesperson of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that supports projects that benefit native people, especially the young. At the Beijing Games in 2008, not only did Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) draw

heavily on the island’s indigenous population for its baseball team as has become customary, but Taiwanese aboriginals were also invited by the Chinese organizers and permitted by the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee to take part in the opening ceremony. The extent of aboriginal involvement, whether athletic or ceremonial, at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, remains to be seen.