History of the Olympic Games
The modern Olympic movement has been shaped by many differentiating factors over the years.It has been altered by social, political, and economic factors.More specifically, warring times, changes to social structures, and economic activity that varies by country have been the overall leading factors that have shaped the Olympics over the years.
The Olympics have shown over the decades that they can be affected by political conflict. However, it seems that this is the point of the Olympics, to illustrate national pride, by competition.
Bloodshed should not be the way for pride of one’s country to be shown, but it should be shown through competition, in the words of the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin(1). The games have been used as a weapon for denouncing a country’s sportsmanship, such as in 1956 when Arnold Lunn, a British Olympic team official accused the Nazis of cheating in the 1936 Olympic games that were held in Germany. He went on to allege that the competitors of Germany went onto the course while it was closed to athletes.
Though the fact that they were trying so hard to practice, could be an example of the importance placed on the games at the time before war period. This is implied by the statement by Arnold Lunn that victory was the only thing that mattered to the Nazis, and how they achieved it did not matter as long as they did(3). The use of the Olympics to show off one’s country was further demonstrated during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union were itching to outdo one another.
Bob Matthias gives insight through an interview into the United State’s yearning to win over Russia. The competitor told of the spirit of winning throughout the team, even in the athletes that were sure to win for the United States(4). This is a stark contrast to an information guide provided by the Soviet Union regarding the olympics being held in Moscow that year. It tells of seeking peace with the U. S. , and how the Olympics were a beacon for social progress and democracy(6). This resulted in the U. S.
boycotting the Olympics, due to the obvious bias in the information. Ali Kabir, finally, told of how the rise and fall of his nation’s hockey team reflects the lack of unity in his own country, even going as far as stating that it’s players are clueless and have tarnished Pakistan’s name(10). This further demonstrates how the Olympic Games reflect political events at the time they are being held. Not only do the Olympic games make a habit of displaying the events of the world through it’s ‘friendly’ competitions, but it also lets economic factors manifest in it’s events.
Ryotaro Azuma, mayor of Tokyo, spoke in an interview in 1972 regarding the 1964 Olympic games held in Japan. He told of how his country finally had a chance to get out of the losing spirit after World War II and rise as a world trade power. The Olympic Games in this case, were used to boost a country’s economy and wealth as well come back as a leading power(5). A Japanese newspaper editorial in 1988 commented about the use of industrial powers by South Korea in that year’s Olympic games, or lack thereof.
It comments negatively on the fact that South Korea did not have the funding to set up the games as well as display it’s industrial and economic power to the world, implying that no matter the medals one, the industrial power by the U. S. , Japan, and other countries will make a lot of profit and leave a memorable impression on the world while South Korea will not(7). The International Olympic Committee provided statistics lending insight into the fees provided into Olympic events, showing an expected trend.
In 1980, it is useful to know that the U. S. and Soviet Union were locked in the Cold War, and as stated previously, the U. S. refused to come to the Olympic Games held in Moscow as well as Russia refusing to attend the one in Los Angeles. The shockingly low fees paid to have viewing and advertising rights to the games held in Moscow reflects the war. Many countries boycotted the Olympics that year, so the severely low amount of fees paid further demonstrates this tense time in during the 20th century.
However, the dramatic increase in the fees paid to broadcast Atlanta’s games illustrates the time of peace after the Cold War ended, with over 800 million dollars being given to broadcast the games(9). Finally, the Olympic games are altered by the diverse and changing social structures in the world. For instance, in 1908 a photograph of British competitor Sybil Newall shooting her bow was found on newspapers across England(2). Whether this photograph was staged to sell newspapers or not, it cannot be denied that this photograph indicates the beginning of women’s movement, which was obviously an important issue during this time in the world.
With more leniency being given to women during this time, they were eventually being allowed to compete in the competitive events, though only 2% of the athletes were women. This factor also continues to show during the 1992 games held in Spain, where by then 29% of women were competing. Hassiba Boulmerka was an Algerian competitor during this time and spoke in an interview about her critics, and how being the first Algerian to win an Olympic title did not depend on her gender, but simply on her strength in her mind and in body.
Boulmerka was heavily criticized by Muslim groups in Algeria for wearing shorts as she ran in the events. Despite this, the games illustrated the decreasing requirements for dresses and increasing requests for appropriate attire, no matter what gender the competitor identifies as. A helpful addition to analyzing the Olympic games would be an article reflecting the point of view of a German athlete during the 1936 games being held in Germany. They could explain why the competitors went onto the courses to practice while they closed, or if they did at all.
He or she could balance the point of view by pointing out that they did not cheat, and that they simply were practicing and either did not know the rules or were just doing what they thought would be okay. Another helpful article would be to add on to the statistics provided by the International Olympic Committee by showing how many countries that competed versus the countries that actually paid for broadcasting rights, especially during the 1980’s games.
This would show whether there is an actual correlation between the lack of countries participating and the lack of money being put into the broadcasting rights of the games. The Olympic games have been shown to be altered and influenced by the social, economic, and political events happening all around it. It seems to be the central point of tension and friendly competition every four years. It was intended to be that way, reflecting the world’s ever changing views on life and each other.