The Politics of the Olympics

While the International Olympic Committee has long promoted its vision of the Olympic Games as an apolitical celebration of international peace and sporting competition, the games have regularly been the focal point of considerable political attention (and often tension). In the 1936 Games in Berlin, Hitler’s hope to use the games as a showcase of German racial superiority were dashed by African American Jesse Owen’s record-breaking performance. And in 1968, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ use of the Black Power salute on the medal podium drew attention to the struggle for racial equality in the United States. In 1972, the terrorist organization Black September killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team before they themselves were killed in a standoff with German police. In 1980, the United States and its allies boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow, only to have the Soviet Union and its allies return the favor four years later.

This year, the Olympic politics have centered on Russia’s repression of gay rights, a point highlighted by Greece’s rainbow-fingered gloves,  Canada’s Olympic commercial,  and the composition of the US Olympic Delegation. In this short video, the New York Times highlights the historical connection between the Olympics and politics.

(This article was previously published by the Politics Matters blog and is reprinted here with permission).


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