The flip: The Donovan Bailey move that attracted international outrage

By Stuart Exell, BBC Sport Fourteen years ago, sprinter Donovan Bailey took to the Olympic podium to strike a pose that would spark outrage. Known as ‘the flip’, the gesture was made when the…

The flip: The Donovan Bailey move that attracted international outrage

By Stuart Exell, BBC Sport

Fourteen years ago, sprinter Donovan Bailey took to the Olympic podium to strike a pose that would spark outrage.

Known as ‘the flip’, the gesture was made when the Guyanese runner was applauded by the majority of the crowd.

“It came to me at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. We’ve got to make up our minds what we want as a nation,” said Bailey.

Donovan Bailey’s ‘the flip’ took the world by storm

“So I said, ‘look, let’s not stand here and look at each other, let’s look around and say who we are as a nation’.

“It means something different to each of us. But that goes to show how divided we are as a nation.”

The throwback gesture in Atlanta was used as the focus of international outrage. But it was not the first time it had caused controversy.

Bailey made his gesture when the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he stood on the runway with his medals after winning gold in the 100m in Athens in 2004.

Three years earlier in Kuala Lumpur, another man he called “a traitor” took to the podium. That man was left hand raised, and kneeling.

Australia’s Danny Forzani

The oft-forgotten face of the rebel protest was former Australian sprinter Danny Forzani.

In 1999, Forzani, a silver medallist in the 100m in Atlanta, pulled up to acknowledge the warm applause of the crowd. Instead, he lowered his hand and pointed his fingers in the same way Bailey had done.

If you give the IOC the credit, then we should give them the blame. An international sport organisation that purports to represent the best interests of its athletes is actually the conduit of bigotry. Jamaica’s Jason McKay

Forzani had been one of the leading faces of the track and field revolution in Australia. He was regarded as one of the sport’s rising stars and spoke out against racism in the sport.

Forzani attracted unwanted attention from the sports press and legal authorities in Australia. He was eventually jailed for his actions.

Fellow Jamaican Jason McKay, who competed with Forzani in Atlanta, believes his actions are the result of misguided British education.

“If you give the IOC the credit, then we should give them the blame,” he told the BBC.

“An international sport organisation that purports to represent the best interests of its athletes is actually the conduit of bigotry.”

In Australia, Forzani’s disgrace eventually led to him stepping down from official and governing body duties.

There was no such fallout over Bailey’s controversial gesture. After all, he is only the second-fastest sprinter of all time.

Is that because Robinson’s gesture was perceived as a tactical one designed to frustrate opponents? Or was it because the class of Bailey in Atlanta outweighed his meaning?

Fourteen years on, when the international Games arena is once again full of Olympic symbols, the flip will be making waves all over again.

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