The Olympics: Diplomacy & Politics
The Olympic Games, born of diplomatic and political design, have always played an important role in international politics. The Olympics provide a stage for both international cooperation and peaceful competition, as well as international conflict and confrontation. Join Active Minds as we explore the rich history of the Olympic Games and how the games have been involved in a variety of international political issues.
Key Lecture Points:
• The 2010 Winter Games will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia Feb. 12-28. Athletes from over 80 nations will compete in 15 different sports, from downhill skiing to curling.
• The Olympic Games, born of diplomatic and political design, have always played an important role in international politics. The Olympics provide a stage for both peaceful international competition, but also international conflict and confrontation.
• Historically, both of these trends are manifest. Countries whose relations have been tense, or even conflict-ridden, have come to the Olympic Games and peacefully competed with one another. That the United States and the Soviet Union both attended the Olympics throughout the duration of the Cold War (with notable exceptions), and competed peacefully with one another, is testament to this point. The same might be said of Indo-Pakistani participation, US-Iranian participation, and Sino-Soviet participation, to give a few more examples.
• On the other hand, the Olympic Games have also at times provided a forum for international conflict, with the prestige of the Games often utilized to publicly draw attention to contentious global or national issues and/or to isolate countries seen to be “objectionable” for some reason. The US boycott, along with 64 other nations, of the 1980 Games in Moscow, the banning of the South African delegation from the 1964 Games in Tokyo, and the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Games in Munich are good examples of this trend.
• Olympic Games have become huge events, requiring extensive infrastructure and lavish ceremonies. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver fall in the middle of a global economic downturn, putting pressure upon the host city and country, as well as the participant nations.
• To what extent are the Olympics limited in their ability to foster global peace and understanding? Why?
• In what ways were the ancient Greek Olympics similar and different from their modern successor?
• Did you support President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games?
• What are some of your favorite Winter Olympic competitions?
• Who are some of your favorite Olympic athletes?
More to Explore:
• The Olympic Movement: www.olympic.org
• On the 1896 Games in Athens: www.theatlantic.com
• On the 2010 Olympics: http://espn.go.com
Books For Further Reading:
• Schaap, Jeremy. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. (paperback) Mariner Books, 2008. 272 pages. Based on interviews with the Owen’s family and extensive archival research, Schaaps tells the remarkable story of Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games and his refutation of Hitler. Click here to order.
• Wilson, Neil. The Treasures of the Olympic Games: An Official Olympic Museum Publication. Carlton Publishing Group, 2008 . Fully authorized and produced in partnership with the official Olympic Museum, this unique treasure trove includes more than 200 photographs and 25 removable facsimiles of rare Olympic memorabilia. Click here to order.