Iconic Photos

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Kozakiewicz’s gesture

with 13 comments

So I was reading this strange article by Christopher Hitchens (who else?) while I saw this photo.

The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were already mired by controversy even before they opened. The United States led the boycott of 64 other countries in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They instead participated in the Olympic Boycott Games or the “Liberty Bell Classic” in Philadelphia, which opened 3 days before the actual games. Fifteen other countries (mainly European) that participated did so under the Olympic Flag instead of their national flags. The Olympic Flag and Hymn were used at Medal Ceremonies when athletes from these countries won medals. The Soviet television alternately ignored and criticized this.

After setting a new world record on July 30th, Polish pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz made a rude gesture (bras d’honneur) to the hostile, jeering Moscow crowd. The crowd was rooting for Soviet jumper Konstantin Volkov. The image was seen around the world except ironically in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. To many, it signified Polish resentment of Russia’s control over Eastern Europe; in Poland, the gesture became immediately known as Kozakiewicz’s gesture. (gest Kozakiewicza).

After the Olympics, the Soviet ambassador to Poland demanded that Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal over his “insult to the Soviet people”. The official response of the Polish government was that the gesture had been an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his exertion. Kozakiewicz for his part promptly defected to West Germany.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 10, 2010 at 9:36 am

13 Responses

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  1. BTW. Now USA (+other EU countries including Poland) “occupies” Afghanistan and noone protests on Olympic Games.

    mrrau

    February 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    • You are either an idiot or completely ignorant of World’s history and geopolitics. The Russian occupation of Afghanistan has NOTHING in common with what the US is trying to do there now.

      Peter

      March 26, 2012 at 3:23 am

    • US invasion of Afghanistan has UN approval which means it has much stronger international support and even RUSSIA approved of it. The Soviet invasion was completely illegal and Soviets bled to the point where the whole USSR collapsed.

      jajabinks

      June 10, 2012 at 4:13 am

  2. the Kozakiewicz’s gesture (as far as i know) is/was regarded as a protest not only in the Afghanistan case… but – as in the article – against Soviet Union politics of controlling countries of the Eastern Europe.
    motion picture: http://www.sportwizja.pl/film/4127/gest-kozakiewicza—olimpiada-moskwa-1980/

    sad is the story ending: in 2007 there was an advertisement in Polish tv with Mr Kozakiewicz making his famous gesture. you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng4oCTVa9XA
    greetings from PL.

    joanna

    February 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm

  3. I’m so glad you post it. I

    Andrew

    February 14, 2010 at 2:01 am

  4. [...] Konstantin Volkov. When the Pole cleared the winning height, he fired back at the crowd with the famously rude gesture depicted above—a gesture that many Poles interpreted as a show of defiance against their [...]

  5. [...] detailed articles, go to: Black Power salute; Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz; Greg Louganis; Dorando Pietri; American basketball team’s controversial loss; Jesse [...]

  6. [...] Kozakiewicz’s gesture przypomina słynny gest Kozakiewicza z letniej olimpiady w Moskwie w 1980 roku. [...]

    Iconic Photos | Fototekst

    December 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm

  7. […] detailed articles for photos above, clockwise from top-left: Black Power salute; Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz; Greg Louganis; Dorando Pietri; American basketball team’s controversial loss; Jesse Owens […]

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