Protesting Via Political Cartoons: Indonesia Boycotts the Tokyo Olympics

CARTOON: Indonesia Withdraws from Tokyo Olympics, Warta Bhakti- 10 October 1964, p1
CARTOON: Indonesia Withdraws from Tokyo Olympics, Warta Bhakti- 10 October 1964, p1

The day before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, North Korea and Indonesia decided to boycott the Games. This decision was expected by many as the previous months had seen conflict between Indonesia and major international sports governing bodies.

Indonesia had hosted a regional sporting event called the Asian Games in 1962, refusing entry of athletes from Israel and Taiwan. As a result, The IOC (symbolized by IOC president Avery Brundage in the cartoons) suspended Indonesia, the first time they had ever done so. In reaction to that, Indonesia organized the GANEFO Games, “The Games of the New Emerging Forces”, which explicitly stated that politics and sports were intertwined.

CARTOON: Just wait until it collapses, Warta Bhakti- 26 September 1964
CARTOON: Just wait until it collapses, Warta Bhakti- 26 September 1964

As the time got closer and closer to October 1964, Indonesia was getting impatient to receive formal indication from the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee (TOOC) that they would be allowed to participate in the Tokyo Olympics. Indonesia actually was invited to the Olympic Games, but were told by the IOC and TOOC as well as the international governing boards of swimming (FINA) and athletics (IAAF), that athletes who participated in the GANEFO Games could not participate in the Olympics.

CARTOON: We are Not Begging Tokyo, Warta Bhakti - 5 July 1964
CARTOON: We are Not Begging Tokyo, Warta Bhakti – 5 July 1964

On October 9, both North Korea and Indonesia decided to pull their entire teams out of Japan.

While it must have been an incredible disappointment to Indonesian athletes in Tokyo then told to return home on the eve of the Olympics, the press in Jakarta made it clear that the boycott was the right decision. The anti-IOC, anti-Western, anti-colonial backlash was significant, and the West were viewed as bullies and racists. I found it interesting that the cartoons above use the word “apartheid” as a symbol of the West or Imperialist nations. They felt the GANEFO Games and Indonesians were being discriminated against, just as blacks were by whites in the US, or as Asians were by the colonialists from Europe.

From the book, “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”
From the book, “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964”

GANEFO was Indonesian President Sukarno’s way of pushing back, saying that it was time for smaller nations to stand up to the bigger nations or, from their perspective, the colonialists. And has been true across the world and through the centuries, was true for the cartoonist of the newspaper, Warta Bhakti at the time – the sharp pen and wit of the cartoonist can be very powerful.

CARTOON: Indonesia is So Green, Warta Bhakti- 28 June 1964, p1
CARTOON: Indonesia is So Green, Warta Bhakti- 28 June 1964, p1

Note: Special thanks to my researcher, Riri Royanto, for finding and translating these illustrations from 1964.