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The coverup
The white tape on Reza-Zadeh's chest

Sara Sefid
August 26, 2004

When Hossein Reza-Zadeh won yesterday I was ecstatic. I didn’t think Iran would win any medals and after the embarrassing behaviour of Arash Miresmaieli, I had written off the Olympics for Iran completely. One reason of course was that NBC chose to televise “Comfort Chic”, “Starting Over” or re-runs of “Queer Eye” instead of any of the races that were going on in Athens live, so they could collect their cool million-dollar-per-second ads in primetime. The Olympics is only the biggest sporting event in the world, occurring only every 4 years at a time. We’re still young.

Enter Reza-Zadeh, a silent giant, a golden little nugget, and Iran’s only secret superman. It was the first time I had watched him so closely. I had to stay up until the next day (12.35 am) to watch him, but it was worth it. He is truly an impressive presence of a man. I didn’t really get the chadoori women in the “crowds” who were cheering for him, and I wasn’t too keen on him wearing his religion on his sleeve, but if he thinks the Koran will help him lift heavier weights and continue to amaze and please crowds all over the world, then so be it.

One thing I noticed during the games, which struck me as rather odd, was some white tape that he had stuck to this chest about a few lifts into the competition. Reza-Zadeh came out initially with his outfit, which had “Ya Abol Fazl” in Farsi and “Pishkooh” written in latin in smaller white font on the top right of his chest.

A few lifts later, and there is a huge white tape stuck to his shirt, as if trying to cover the Pishkooh. I didn’t know why this was. I thought maybe this Iranian, who is an advertiser’s wet dream in Iran, had gotten paid to put some brand name on his shirt and maybe after the Olympic judges had noticed the name, had asked him to cover it. Maybe it was against Olympic rules or something. Too bad they couldn’t read Farsi. How does "Ya Abol Fazl" fit into the rules?

I asked around and my friends all agreed that they had not seen any advertising on the shirts of other athletes. Maybe it was banned at the Olympics. In other sports competitions, you normally see every inch of the athlete covered with ads. I recalled that some of the other athletes had “Nike” or a small Addidas logo on their shirts. Maybe they allowed only sporting good brands, who produced the gear, to have their name or logo on the competitor’s shirt. Maybe the size mattered. Or maybe Pishkooh was an industrial brand that was not considered athletic.

So today, I googled Pishkooh. It turns out they are the Nike of Iran. They have a nice website --, and guess who's featured on their front page? - and they make gym clothes and sporting goods. So the only reason for taping up his chest was ONE: he was feeling pains in the right upper chest, which I doubt, as the tape got limper and limper while his popularity and the weights got bigger and bigger. Or TWO: maybe the size of the name did not comply with Olympic rules. In either case, I would have liked to know why he covered the name.

I also would have liked NBC to televise the Iranian National Anthem. I mean I have only seen the US flag go up about five thousand times by now. Instead, they chose to show local reports about Greek food and then, of course, the local news, my favorite, twenty minutes of exclusive coverage on which dogs are being trained to “protect” us during the Republican National convention >>> See photos

For more on Iranian athletes in the Olympics on

Sara Sefeed is Senior Editor of

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Book of the day

Iranian Nationality and the Persian Language
by Shahrokh Meskoob

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