The 2019 FINA Aquatic World Championships saw its first medal ceremony filled with drama, as the men’s 400m freestyle silver medalist, Australia’s Mack Horton, protested gold medalist Sun Yang‘s presence by abstaining from podium celebrations, standing behind the platform on the floor during the Chinese national anthem.
Horton’s behavior is having ripple effects more than 6 months later, as his childhood school of Caulfield Grammar is reportedly shying away from naming its new state-of-the-art aquatic center after its first Olympic champion constituent.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Caulfield Grammar was considering naming its $25 million center after Horton, but plans are being reevaluated due to the public fall-out from Horton’s defiance in Gwangju.
The school has ties to China which could be tainted if they were to move forward with honoring Horton. Caulfield Grammar was the first Australian school to open a campus in mainland China, says SMH, and Chinese children comprise a large percentage of the school’s secondary Wheelers Hill campus outside Melbourne.
“Will Beijing determine the kind of words and language that are usable at Caulfield Grammar?” asked Clive Hamilton, an author and academic who has examined China’s reach into Australian institutions. “It’s completely beyond the pale. Mack Horton’s courage in calling out a drug cheat contrasts with Caulfield Grammar cowardice in kowtowing to a foreign power.” (SMH)
Federal MP Tim Wilson, whose electorate of Goldstein lies just south of the school’s main campus, wrote to Caulfield Grammar on Monday calling on the school to overturn the decision, which he said sent a “truly disturbing message” (SMH)
Caulfield Grammar principal Ashleigh Martin issued a statement on Monday, insisting that no decision on the new facility’s name had yet been made.
“The school has not started a process for naming the facility after any individual or decided at this time if it will be named after any individual. The naming of buildings at Caulfield Grammar School is a school council decision and discussions relating to the naming of the Caulfield Aquatic Centre have not commenced.
“Caulfield Grammar School and its community have great pride, respect and admiration for Mack Horton, both as an Olympic swimmer and as a Caulfield grammarian.”