It's the age old question of whether sport and politics mix. It would seem that yes, they do in fact. Be it the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where the Nazis had a chance to push their lovely brand of facism or the 1980 and 1984 Olympics when first the Americans and friends and then the Soviets and friends boycotted each other's games, there is no way you can separate the two. New Zealand played a part in the isolation of the apartheid regime in South Africa by stopping sporting contact with South Africa. While we are a small country, when it comes to rugby, we punch above our weight by quite a lot. Nelson Mandella himself thanked NZ for stopping rugby contact with South Africa and felt that it was a great help in changing the regime. While this wouldn't work with all countries, a sports obsessed country like South Africa really suffered when they were unable to play rugby and cricket.
NZ now faces this question yet again with our cricket team to tour Zimbabwe in August. The ICC, the ruling body of world cricket, has said they will fine any country 2 million dollars if they fail their commitments to tour other countries. They fail to see the dilemma that this puts nations like New Zealand and in the past England and Australia and see cricket only in terms of money. While cricket is mainly played by the white population of Zimbabwe, Mugabe is a huge fan. By not going ahead with the tour New Zealand cricket and therefore the country could show their displeasure at what is going on in this beautiful country. I tend to think that by going to Zimbabwe, perhaps the players could show their displeasure at the regime and attempt to shame Mugabe, but while I would be happy to do this if I were a cricket player, I think it is unfair to expect our players to do this. The best thing therefore would be to not go, have the New Zealand government pay the fine and try to gather the support of other nations. India will also be in Zimbabwe at that time and it would be great if they would support this. However the Indian cricket team is not known for getting involved with such thing, so I do not hold out much hope for this.
By taking a stand, maybe NZ can influence the ICC and show Mugabe that what he is doing is not acceptable.
For more information on Zimbabwe, please click here and here.
San Nakji for President!