The original intent of the Olympics was to bring peace to the warring regions of Greece through national unity and awareness. The modern Olympic Games, which began in 1892, changed the goals of the athletic competition because of the international movements surrounding women’s rights, the tensions that wars and social issues put on nationalism and political identities, and the economic gains that came with the Olympics. The women’s rights movement saw a dramatic increase in the 20th century as the role and portrayal of women changed with the times.
The modern Olympic Games allowed for women to compete, beginning in the 1908 Olympics held in Great Britain. Sybil Newall competed in the archery competition (Doc. 2). In a time when only 2% of the competitors were women and the women’s suffrage movement was gaining speed, Sybil’s actions would have inspired women all over the world to take more charge and to fight for more rights. In 1995, Hassiba Boulmerka was quoted in an interview concerning her Olympic experience in 1992.
She said that her wins gave not only her confidence, but gave confidence to all of the women in her country who “[were] capable of becoming athletes, but psychologically, they didn’t think so” (Doc 8). In a predominantly Muslim country, a woman competing in shorts would challenge the social norm and the way that women were seen tremendously. Boulmerka made this statement because she saw the women’s rights movement and wanted to keep inspiring women so that more of the Olympics could be shaped by women. Wars during this period rocked the world and everyone in it.
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In the first modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the movement, made a statement saying that with the addition of the modern Olympics, the world would become a utopian place where every country was an ally of every country because the games would provide international and diplomatic peace rather that instigating war (Doc 1). The idea that the Olympics could provide international piece was shattered when the multiple wars broke out during this period: these wars not only pit country against country, but challenged athletes to beat the others in newer demanding ways.
Arnold Lunn, of the British team in the 1936 games, recalls that the German teams tried hard not only to just beat the other athletes, but to prove “that Nazism was better than democracy” (Doc 3). The point of winning then was not just to win the medal, but to say that one’s country was inherently better than the losing teams home countries. Tensions from the Cold War put stress on the athletes in the 1952 games held in Finland. Bob Matthias, a U. S. ompetitor recalled that beating the enemy felt better than beating allies (Doc 4). The nationalism that the American media and government sent out during this time caused him to say this because it made him believe that to win the Cold War, we also had to beat the Soviets at everything else. Also during the Cold War games, the Soviet Union’s Olympic Organizing Committee stated that the reason Moscow was chosen to host the games was because the Soviet Union “[was] a beacon of peace, democracy, and social progress” (Doc 6).
This statement was made because the committee wanted the rest of the world to know how the Soviets saw themselves: as better than the United States. Ali Kabir of Pakistan stated that the reason that the men’s field hockey team didn’t do well in the 2000 Olympics was because “[their] social values [shrunk] from that of national pride to self-promotion” (Doc 10). He states that because the country’s men didn’t have a strong sense of national identity, they could not actively compete hard enough to win.
The modern Olympic movement was also shaped by the economic factors that went into hosting the Olympic Games and having advertising rights. Ryotaro Azuma, mayor of Japan during the 1964 games in Tokyo, stated that not only did the country need the games to get it out of the post-war mentality in the eyes of other nations, but so that it could rise to a world power in trade, which it likely wouldn’t have done without the help of the Olympics (Doc 5). Not only were the Olympics shaped by trade, but they were shaped by advertisers and sponsors.
A Japanese economic journal recorded that Korea “failed to avail itself of an opportunity to display its industrial and economic power” because it wasn’t selected to be a sponsor of the 1998 games (Doc 7). The International Olympic Committee’s prices for broadcast rights went up from 100 million (USD) to almost 1. 4 billion in a p of 20 years. (Doc 9). Only countries that could afford that could have a chance to have broadcasting rights, so many couldn’t buy these and were left out from participating in an aspect of the games.
Another document from a citizen and not a newspaper or a team member could be useful in analyzing the effect as then we could see how the public saw the Olympics change over time with the addition of different factors, such as women or the tensions during wars. The modern Olympics were changed and sculpted by the aspects of a changing world. Because of political identities and the rise of nationalism, the women’s rights movement, and economic factors on a global market, the modern games worked out differently than ever could have been imagined by those who created it.
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