Schwarzenegger Name Taken Off Graz Stadium
Richard Bernstein reports that the officials in Graz, Austria have taken Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name off their sports stadium after a dispute over the death penalty.
For years the quaint Austrian town of Graz trumpeted its special relationship with its outsize native son, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Born in a village nearby and schooled in Graz, Mr. Schwarzenegger was an honorary citizen and holder of the town’s Ring of Honor. Most conspicuously, the local sports stadium was named after him.
But early on Monday, under cover of darkness, his name was removed from the arena in a sort of uncontested divorce between the California governor and the town council, which had been horrified that he rejected pleas to spare the life of Stanley Tookie Williams, former leader of the Crips gang, who was executed by the state of California two weeks ago.
The 15,000-seat stadium had been named after Mr. Schwarzenegger in 1997 as an act of both self-promotion and fealty toward the poor farmer’s son and international celebrity, who has always identified Graz as his native place.
But when he declined to commute Mr. Williams’s death penalty, the reaction was swift and angry in Graz, which, like most places in Europe, sees the death penalty as a medieval atrocity.
“I submitted a petition to the City Council to remove his name from the stadium, and to take away his status as an honorary citizen,” Sigrid Binder, the leader of the Green Party, said in a recent interview. “The petition was accepted by a majority on the council.”
Before a formal vote was taken on the petition, however, Mr. Schwarzenegger made a kind of pre-emptive strike, writing a letter to Siegfried Nagl, the town’s conservative mayor, withdrawing Graz’s right to use his name in association with the stadium.
There will be other death penalty decisions ahead, he wrote, and so he decided to spare the responsible politicians of Graz further concern.
“It was a clever step,” Ms. Binder said. “He took the initiative,” she continued, and then suggested a bit of the local politics that had entered into the matter. “It was possible for him to do so,” she said, “because the mayor didn’t have the courage to take a clear position on this point.”
One has to get past the headline and the first six paragraphs of the story before one gets to the truth–and then the truth is presented as a stunt on the part of Schwarzenegger.
The original AP story made it clear that, while there were a handful of politicians in Graz trying to use the stadium as a publicity stunt, Schwarzenegger took this step on his own. To portray this as a big “snub” on the part of the townspeople of Graz is simply a misrepresentation of reality.
Update: Schwarzenegger Deleted From Web Sites (AP)
The Terminator has been terminated in his hometown. On Tuesday, a day after officials in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian birthplace of Graz removed his name from a soccer stadium to comply with the California governor’s wishes, they deleted references to him on the city’s Web sites.
Schwarzenegger earlier this month wrote to Graz officials asking for his name to be removed from the stadium and ordering the city to stop using it for promotional purposes. He was reacting to fierce criticism from opponents in his hometown who denounced him for refusing to block the Dec. 13 execution in California of Stanley Tookie Williams.
Late Sunday or early Monday, Graz officials took down the large metal letters spelling out Schwarzenegger’s name on the 15,300-seat arena. On Tuesday, the mayor’s office said references to the actor-turned-politician were scrubbed from Graz’s main Web site and from a sister site devoted to the region’s sports scene. “It’s all settled,” Thomas Rajakovics, a spokesman for Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl, told Austrian media.
My guess is that Schwarzenegger will survive. Certainly, Graz benefitted more from being “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s childhood home” than he did from being an “honorary citizen of Graz.”
Previously at OTB: