chapter  3
Circumventing Apartheid: Racial Politics and the Issue of South Africa’s Olympic Participation at the 1984 Los Angeles Games
ByMatthew Llewellyn
Pages 19

On the morning of Thursday, July 5, 1984, anti-apartheid activists gathered outside of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) headquarters protesting statements made by two US members to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Julian K. Roosevelt and Douglas Roby, in support of South Africa’s readmission to the Olympic Movement.1 In an interview published in the San Jose Mercury, Roosevelt – grandnephew of US President, Theodore – and his colleague, long-serving IOC member Roby, called upon president Juan Antonio Samaranch to welcome the apartheid state back into the Olympic fold in time for the forthcoming 1984 Los Angeles Games. ‘My personal position is that they should be readmitted’, Roosevelt declared. ‘To the best of my knowledge, apartheid has been all but eliminated from sports in South Africa. In fact, there is probably less discrimination in sports in South Africa than in the United States or the Soviet Union’, he opined. Reflecting upon Pretoria’s deliberate moves to desegregate and decentralise South African sport in response to decades of international condemnation and hard-hitting sanctions, Roby supported his colleague’s rose-tinted account. ‘They have racially mixed competition there now’, he insisted. ‘I know the head of the South African Olympic Committee, and I think they are doing a good job of getting things straightened out’. The IOC officials highlighted the example of South Africa’s ‘world class’ mixed-race


f i esi l y, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA, USA

swim team as a testament to the government’s successful abrogation of its controversial apartheid sports policy. ‘I was particularly impressed with the black swimmers’, Roosevelt gushed, ‘because blacks generally don’t like to swim . . . they don’t like the water’.2