The Influence of Politics in Olympic Games

The Influence of Politics in Olympic Games


Considered the world’s foremost sports competition, Olympic Games present itself in various reflections regarding new refugee crisis and discriminatory approaches against athletes in Rio


 Traditionally dated to 776 BC, the Olympic Games are considered the world's foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. Serving as a heritage of humanity, once in every 4 years athletes from all around the world come together to compete and celebrate the unity and solidarity that the olympic games have been providing since the first Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece. The traditional Olympic Games were held from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. It was not until 1896 that the Modern Olympic Games were born, but clearly into a different world.

Just like the symbol of the ancient games representing the unity of the 5 continents, the Olympic Games have always been the symbol of equality and peace, bringing together all the nations to participate in a series of sporting events, races of various sports to determine who the best athlete is. But since the beginning of the 20th century it’s possible to say that the rooted Olympic Games have been showing signs of failure to bring peace, if only for two weeks. It’s obvious that the modern world is not peaceful as it used to be, but how could an international game that originated thousands of years ago could possibly fail now?


A New Branch of Games in the Olympics: Politics

 The Olympic Games that served so long as a meeting point of the five continents and the declaration of equality of all human kind has been sadly loosing its power to unite because of the political competition between the countries. There has been a general awareness that the thousand year old games have been yet again transforming into a new state where the countries that the athletes represent competed in their own political games, with of course a winner and a looser. Of course the sensation of a competition can push people to do things that they’ve never imagined of doing. But considering the fact that the world leaders have started to compete in their own political games to determine the best has been bringing great discomfort to the thousand year old games. And the competition doesn’t start with the games at all, even at the very begging, at the voting to determine the country and city to host the forthcoming games turns into a race. The city to win the poll earns the right to bring the Olympic spirit not only to a certain city but to the whole country which naturally has many benefits: job opportunities for the citizens, a great amount of tourist attraction, an opportunity to show the world how great your country really is, and last but not least the economic contribution.


Reflections of Politics in the Olympics Throughout History

Starting from the very beginning where the country to host the games are selected, the political games tend to transform according to the conjuncture. There are multiple examples where the political side of the Olympic games have stranded out putting aside the games original objectives to unite man kind. Most of these examples are from the I, II World War and the Cold War. During the Moscow games held in 1980, the United States boycotted the games along with 61 other countries when the Soviets denied withdrawing its military forces from Afghanistan. Four years after, the Soviets attempted to boycott the United States during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, but could only convince 16 governments to join their cause. The cold war eventually ended, but the U.S.- and Soviet-led boycotts were a failure of the Olympic spirit at the highest levels.

Another interesting and powerful example of the existence of politics in the Olympic Games showed up during the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin. The 1938 Olympic Games were intentionally given to Germany so the republic could show that it had regained its status among European countries. With the Nazis in power, Adolf Hitler decided to benefit from the opportunity and used the historical event as a platform to prove his notorious theory of racial superiority. His attempt failed as African-American Jesse Owens became the hero of the Games winning four gold medals. Today the success of Jesse Owens has taken its place in the history books as one of the most influential triumphs not only for the African-American community but for all man kind.


An Unintentional Political Race

Besides the existence of politics in the Olympic Games outside the arena, there is a natural asset of politics within the games itself. Besides the personal races where the athletes compete personally, the athletes compete in teams according to the country they represent. The number of medals that an athlete and a national team wins in the games in which they participate add up to declare the country with the most medals, briefly the Olympic Games determines the best country by the number of medals they’ve earned during the games. This sense of victory sadly destroys the objective of equality that the Olympic Games originally aimed to give.


The Olympic Games Reveal New Social Issues

The Olympic Games have also been a platform where political crisis’ have become apparent. The large community of press from all around the world has prevailed to reflect the issues that have not been fully solved throughout the years worldwide. With the internet creating the opportunity to access all kind of information, people were much more easily informed about these problems. Racism and inequality were once again a matter of debate in the latest Olympic Games held this year in Rio de Janeiro. But apart from the other years, this year the main focus was on the refugee crisis and sexism.

This year in the Rio Olympic Games, a team of refugees from different countries competed under the Olympic Flag. In March 2016 the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach declared that the IOC would choose five to ten refugees to compete at the Rio Olympics, in the context of the "worldwide refugee crisis”. The team consisting of 10 athletes was from different countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The Refugee Team failed to win any medals during the competition but the stories of the refugee athletes and their power to fight on even in the darkest days had wide press coverage and was discussed all around the world.

Another new topic that was brought forth in this years game was sexism, in other words the social inequality between male and female athletes. The media had also a big role in this controversy; the debates started especially when multiple press agencies degraded female athletes who succeeded in the games and expressed that their personal victory was of either their coaches, their husbands and even both. Another argument started when Andy Murray was asked how he felt about being the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals”. Murray immediately corrected the presenter, saying: “To defend the singles title. I think Venus and Serena have won about four each.”

 To conclude, the spirit of the Olympic Games that united all the nations and provided a peaceful and equal environment not only for the competitors but also for the spectators all around the world have sadly collapsed, either from the political interest of the countries or the social polemics that have come to the forefront during the games. The general decline in the power of the Olympic Games is a worrisome scene for us all. We can only hope that the next Olympic Games that will be held in 2018 will provide the whole world with the faith of a brighter future. We can only hope that the Olympic Games will be more conscious of their power to unite and do its best to give hope, happiness, sense of unity and peace to the whole world after all.


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