At a time when, inevitably, High Performance orders athletes not so much by their origin as by the designs of the clothing brands that sponsor them, a certain logic of uniformity that crosses Olympic delegations brings part of the charm that, even for the least internalized observers, makes the games a human manifestation that is difficult to match.
In many sports, we can identify our idols both by their sporting excellence and by the colors they wear: red, black and green is Kenya. Red, yellow and black is Belgium. Green, yellow and red is Ethiopia. Blue, red and white, Great Britain. Also, in no discipline is more identification allowed than that of the Olympic committee that the athlete represents. There have been many times when those responsible for the props of some delegation had to work against the clock to cover with tape the identification shield of the local sports federation in question.
In a way, all of this is part of an increasingly controversial statement that Olympism must be kept away from any non-sporting event or anything else that means running the risk of expressions that mean going against its ancient protocols.
Whether we agree with this or not, we must agree that current times bring us closer and closer to the need to discuss issues that, on the one hand, update some concepts and, on the other, allow us to have under some control what, in almost the whole world and beyond sport, puts at risk a logical rebellion in the face of an otherwise unsatisfactory status quo.
The debate on the use of the hijab in the Olympic Games was reopened after a statement by the French Sports Minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera, who assured that Muslim athletes who will represent the country in Paris 2024 will be banned from wearing a veil.
In an interview with France 3, Oudea-Castera explained that the French government supports “a regime of strict secularism, strictly enforced in the field of sport,” and said: “What does that mean? It means the prohibition of all forms of proselytism, it means the absolute neutrality of the public service, including the representatives of our delegations, in our teams in France, who will not wear the veil”.
The decision is in line with the measure approved last year by the French Senate banning “the use of conspicuous religious symbols during sporting events and sports competitions organized by federations and affiliated associations”.
Oudea-Castera’s statement found a quick response at the United Nations (UN) through its spokesperson, Marta Hurtado, who said that “in general terms, the High Commissioner for Human Rights believes that no one should impose on a woman what she should wear or not.”
The debate in France about the use of the veil in sports is not new and one of the Federations that prohibit it is that of football, which led to the creation in 2020 of the collective called “Les Hijabeuses”, a group of football players who fight to be able to play with clothing.
It was only in 2014 that FIFA lifted the ban on playing with a veil after, for example, giving the Iranian national team a couple of games for losing a couple of games during the qualification for the London 2012 Games for not wearing regular clothing. This year, Moroccan Nouhalia Benzina became the first to compete in a World Cup with hijab.
Numerous athletes have competed with the Islamic veil at the Olympic Games and two of the last cases were those of the karatec Sara Bahmanyar and the sprinter Farzaneh Fasihi, who were forced to wear it by Iranian law.
So far, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not expressed themselves in relation to this prohibition that French athletes will have from wearing headscarves, although the organization has always spoken out in favor of ensuring that there is no discrimination in the Olympic Games and that all athletes can compete and live together.