A Political History Of The Olympics
On July 12, 2012, 11:00 AM by Rosie Spinks
The Olympics are about athleticism…and politics. Here’s a look at the most politically volatile moments in modern Olympic history.
If you ever needed proof that the days of sports and politics’ close affiliation are here to stay, you needn’t look further than the match played between Greece and Germany in the quarterfinal of the 2012 Euro Cup last month.
Hollywood’s most inventive screenwriter could have scarcely come up with a more tension-riddled competition. While it was a matter of coincidence that the two protagonists of the Euro crisis wound up playing each other in the quarter final, many spectators anticipated that strained political relations would spill into and around the playing field.
Greece lost 4-2. But what many billed the “bailout game” was prime evidence that in a fully globalized world, the linkage between international sports competitions and the politics surrounding the competitors has been irrevocably cemented.
When it comes to the Olympics, the history of athletes and nations using the Games as a platform for political statements is rich and varied. The Olympics serve as an ideal platform; unlike climate conferences in Rio or G20 meetings in Mexico, the Olympics are a gathering of nations for an event that a large portion of the global population actually pays attention to.
With its control over which nations can and cannot participate in the games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has always set the tone for political activism. By banning countries from entering the competition on political grounds, like South Africa in the 1960s apartheid era, and by outlining requirements for future hosts of the games (re: China’s human rights record in 2008), the IOC has encouraged the idea that the Olympics aren’t just about sports.
So with mere weeks to go until the London 2012 Olympics commence, here’s a look back at some of the best political statements in the 116-year history of the modern Olympics, undertaken by both individual athletes and entire nations.
- –When Irish track and field athlete Peter O’Connor won a silver medal for his performance in the triple jump in 1906, he was less than pleased. Ireland, lacking a National Olympic Committee, was unable to register O’Connor as an Irish athlete, so he was entered instead as a representative of Great Britain. After receiving his medal at the flag raising ceremony, O’Connor made a defiant move in the name of Irish nationalism by climbing the flag pole to unfurl an Irish flag in place of the Union Jack.
- –Eight separate countries boycotted the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia—none for reasons that had anything to do with the host country—which marked the first time international governments made the decision to withdraw from the games completely. In protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary, nations including the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland withdrew their participation. Egypt, Cambodia, Iraq and Lebanon did the same in response to the brewing Suez crisis, while the People’s Republic of China withdrew in anger over Taiwan’s participation.
- thedailyfeed: For this haunting photo series “Ghosts of War,”... October 30, 2012
- Robert Reich: The Final Days, the Biggest Issue, and the Clearest Choice October 30, 2012
- reuters: U.S. stock markets to close on Monday, possibly... October 30, 2012