In 1936 Jesse Owen achieved the supposedly unachievable, by winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. This accomplishment was performed in a country whose regime was ardently racist and xenophobic. Watched by Hitler, the black American showed to the world that sporting achievement could cut across the colour of a person’s skin.
Owen’s legacy was profound, influencing thousands of athletes across decades, but racism in sport did not stop in 1936. Anyone who witnessed the racist insults shouted at black English football players when they played Macedonia last year can testify to the fact that ignorance and hatred are still widespread in European sport.
Last week in the same city where Jesse Owen won his medals, a Europe wide conference was held that brought together young people to discuss racism within sport. It was organised by a European initiative called Anti Racism Tools, and seven countries sent delegates to Berlin.
One of the three members of the English contingent was Tristan Hale, the investment coordinator of the York University’s Athletic Union. Tristan, who got the chance to attend the conference after he was the finalist in the Whitbread Young Achiever of the Year Award, and the other conference goers were there to produce scenarios involving racism and the best way to deal with them.
These scenarios are going to be filmed later this year, with each one expressing one type of discrimination experienced by young people. Each film is going to involve Artie, a figure that represents the victims of racism. Next year there should be ten of these films available on the internet, the idea is that everyone involved in youth sport would be able to explore discrimination in sport and ways to successfully deal with it.
Tristan believed that the conference “was very successful” and that “it was really great meeting people from different countries and backgrounds.” The success of the conference is hoped to be mirrored in December when a follow up conference is arranged in Prague.
Such an initiative can only be positive – improving general tolerance towards sports people from different races. A situation that would have been envied by thousands of sportsmen and women throughout decades of abuse and hatred.