When Sport Becomes Political

rugby, springboks

I think sports played a big role on the end of Apartheid. We have seen before in the other movies that we have watched how people protested and boycotted products from South Africa. Even if all that really helped to put an end to Apartheid, the fourth part of Have You Heard from Johannesburg? showed us how sports had an impact on the anti-apartheid movement.

In all countries, the South African team was met by protests against their all white team. Even if their team was not a political party, or anything similar to that, it was still representing a country where people did not have equal rights. Sports in this case was not just a way to communicate but also a way to actually reach the people behind the apartheid- the white people. In the movie we are told that sports was very important for white people.

Therefore a goal for many South Africans, such as Dennis Brutus, was to try to get South Africa banned from the Olympics and other sporting events so the country would feel left out and like they were not a part of it anymore.  Luckily Brutus succeeded to exclude South Africa from the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964. Not only do I think sports made it possible for black people to reach out to white people, but also for people in other countries to help out. Even if South Africa was banned from certain games, they were still able to play what they did best: rugby.

Stop playing with apartheid

South Africa kept playing rugby against Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. When the South African team arrived to the different countries they were met by local people protesting against apartheid.

What was quite ironic is how Australia themselves had problems with racism at that time as this happened, and apparently they were “one of the most racist Western country”. That made me think that things are often easier said than done. Sometimes I feel like we can easily criticize other people and other countries, without even thinking about our own weaknesses.


South Africa was banned in the Olympics in Montreal in 1976. What really upset people was how  New Zealand had been playing rugby against South Africa even though they were aware of the country’s racial and apartheid problems. People thought New Zealand therefore supported the country and that it was a country full of racism.

In the movie Africans who are interviewed mention how the people in  South Africa are their brothers, how they were insulted when the New Zealand rugby team played against South Africa right after the Soweto Uprising Massacre occurred, and how they were deeply disappointed by New Zealand’s actions. Due to this, many African countries wanted to show their support to the oppressed people in South Africa by boycotting the Olympics in Montreal. Only because they refused to be in the same games as New Zealand. I think the African countries felt like that was their obligation. Africans from all over the continent strongly supported the oppressed South Africans and I think the Olympic boycott really proved their loyalty. It got to that point where the sports were more than just sports, but in the end the Olympics was about politics and human rights.

In the end of the movie we are told how Nelson Mandela chose to keep the Springbok as the South African symbol and I think that was a very smart move by Mandela. By doing so, he did not just completely change the country, but keeping things as they used to be and instead letting all people take part of it.


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