The Politics Behind Olympics Games
Among the Greeks, fitness competitions and games were nationalistic in spirit; states were said to have been prouder of Olympic victories than of battles won. Women, foreigners, slaves, and dishonored persons were forbidden to compete. Contestants were required to train faithfully for 10 months before the games and had to take an oath that they had fulfilled the training requirements before participating. At first, the Olympic Games were confined to running, but over time new events were added. The winners of the Olympics were crowned with chaplets of wild olive, and in their home city-states male champions were also awarded valuable gifts and privileges.
As a visible focus of world energies, the Olympic Games have been prey to many factors that have thwarted their ideals of world co-operation and athletic excellence. Like in ancient Greece, nationalistic fervour has fostered intense rivalries that have at times threatened the survival of the games. Although officially only individuals are able to win Olympic medals, nations routinely assign political significance to the feats of their citizens and teams. For example, between 1952 and 1988 rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, rooted in mutual political antagonism, resulted in each boycotting games hosted by the other (Moscow, 1980; Los Angeles, 1984).
Politics has influenced the Olympic Games in other ways, from the propaganda of the Nazis in Berlin (1936) to pressures leading to the exclusion of white-ruled Rhodesia from the Munich games (1972). At Munich, nine Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which sets and enforces Olympic policy, has struggled with the licensing and commercialisation of the games, the need to schedule events to accommodate television networks, and the monitoring of athletes who seek illegal competitive advantage, often through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. In 1998 a scandal erupted with revelations that bribery and favouritism had played a role in the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City, Utah, and in the selection of some earlier venues.
But, regardless of the Olympic Games tensions, it is historically proven that sports have acted as a liaison between nations and have greatly contributed to their evolution. Beginning with the sociological, psychological and physiological aspects of the human nature, sports have gained the praise of people worldwide, as they have contributed to their well being. Group-oriented, since in order to be a winner one has to compete, sport brings people closer together and generates team-spirit along with mind and physical awareness. But, whether or not the contemporary Olympic Games act as an opportunity for nations to learn from one another and cooperate or are just another opportunity for people to engage in competitive and hostile rivalries, only historians of the future will be able to judge with some certainty.