Political Issues In International Sport

Authored by: Thomas Zeiler

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792548
eBook ISBN: 9781315761930
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646679


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One need only consider the Olympic Games to recognise the importance of the intimate links between sport and international politics (including diplomacy) over the past three-quarters of a century. The Berlin Games of 1936 featured controversy over race politics and strident Nazi propaganda (Keys 2006). Less remembered episodes that exemplify the Olympics as a stage for political expression include the 1992 Barcelona Games, when Spanish Basque separatists threatened violence, or when Aborigines peacefully demonstrated against discrimination at Sydney in 2000. The Athens Games of 2004 witnessed protests at the U.S. embassy against the war in Iraq, and the Beijing Olympics dealt with human rights complaints against bad working conditions in China, degradation of the environment, and treatment of political prisoners. When the torch was carried around the globe, activists campaigned against Chinese policies in Tibet and the arming of Sudanese government troops. Sadly, the spectre of international terrorism will likely hover over security preparations for Olympics for years to come, although these violent methods against the state have been around sports for decades (Houlihan 1994; Wedemeyer 1999). Just as infamously, Cold War tensions limited athletic competitions in 1980 and 1984. Terrorism rocked the 1972 spectacle in Munich, while civil rights came to the fore with the surfacing of Black Power salutes in Mexico City in 1968 (not to mention the decades-long ban on South African participation due to apartheid). Hovering over the Sochi Winter Games of 2014 was the invisible strong hand of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his seizure of Crimea, just after the event ended.

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