Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic Spot


Most athletes have some sort of good luck charm they carry or ritual that they follow, some more seriously than others.

One of the stranger ones to emerge from the Rio Olympics is that of Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli.

The back story goes that when he was 8 years old and small for his age, he was intimidated by the other competitors in swimming events. His father counselled him that he should put everything and everyone out of his mind and focus only on the swim. When young Santo asked how he should do that, his father sagely advised him to say “Fuck it!” Furthermore, according to Santo, Dad advised “Every time you're behind the blocks, give me the finger and I'll give it back to you.''' Santos followed the advice and, just prior to the start of the next race, he flipped the bird to his father, who responded in kind.

Saanto began winning races and, ever since then, he and his father have flipped the bird at each other prior to the start of a race.

Some examples:



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This reminds me of another classic Olympic incident when the whole arm, not just the finger, was offered to the crowd.

Here is a reprint of a past Bytes item (25 February 2010) about that moment . . . 

Władysław Kozakiewicz's Arm of Honour (1953 - )

Watching some of the ice hockey at the Winter Olympics on the TV brought to mind an iconic moment at the Summer Olympics in 1980. That year the Olympics were held in Moscow. The US and various other countries had withdrawn from the games as a protest against Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan, so that tensions were high. The Russians felt that their plans and efforts for a spectacular Olympics had been deliberately sabotaged and that they had been humiliated in the eyes of the world. 

In the pole vault, the battle for gold had come down to the Russian competitor, Konstantin Volkov, and the Pole Władysław Kozakiewicz (pronounced Vlad-is-lav Ko-za-kev-ich). To understand what happens next, know that the Poles are a fierce nationalistic and independent-minded people. At the time Poland was under the domination of the Soviet bloc, in effect Poland was run and controlled by Russia, a fact which the Poles hated with a vengeance.

The battle had come down to Kozakiewicz’s vault. A success would see him take gold, a fail would result in Volkov taking the gold and the Pole the silver.

As he readied himself and psyched for the jump, the Russian crowd in the Moscow stadium booed, jeered, whistled and yelled at Kozakiewicz, who maintained his concentration on the vault. He appeared not to hear them or to be aware of the noise directed towards him.

He made the jump, it was good, at 5.75m, and he secured gold. 

As he rose to his feet after landing, he turned to the hostile Russian crowd and delivered his salute to them:


I was never previously aware, until looking up the story for this item, that such a mannerism had an official title: Bras d’honneur, French for “arm of honour”. As does the middle finger extended, the Doigt d'honneur, “finger of honour”. The finger gesture dates back to Ancient Rome, where it was known as the digitus impudicus (impudent finger). It has also been referred in ancient Greek comedy for insulting another person. The use in other countries is probably due to Roman and Greek influence.

In Poland, Kozakiewicz’s bras d’honneur became known as “Kozakiewicz’s gesture” and photos showed it worldwide, except in the Soviet Union and its satellites.

After the 1980 Olympics ended, the Soviet ambassador to Poland demanded that Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal over his "insult to the Soviet people". The Polish government replied that, having investigated the alleged insult, it was clear that the gesture had been an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his exertion.



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