Political Events at the Olympic Games

Mon 26 July 2021 | 6:00

As one of the most popular tournaments, the Olympics has many fans who follow all related topics seriously. One of the most viewed topics for sports followers is political events at the Olympic Games, which through the following article, we have focused on the topic.

The following text has reviewed the events that came from sports and politics. Sometimes the latter left painful moments not only in history but in sports. However, what is significant is the synchronization between these two issues. Here, we have gathered some historical events that affected both society and sports. Before going through the Olympic political protests, it is better to take a look at Olympic goals. 

The Olympic Games are a period in which many athletes with various nationalities in different sports fields meet to glorify athleticism and celebrate mental strength. The main goal behind these massive competitions comes from promoting sports rivalry(s) and educating free of any prejudice. In other words, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) aims to enhance a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair playing through sports competitions. 

Based on the IOC definition regarding the Olympics, they are a period in which nations put aside their political fights supposedly. It is the policy that IOC has promoted in the Olympic charter, as the concept of Olympic truce, and all have observed it within the history of ancient Olympics.

However, there have been several cases in which politics have disrupted the IOC's goal of international peace within the tournaments. Boycott, Propaganda, and protests are examples of several political events by which many disruptions happened in the Games.

Through the following paragraphs regarding the political history of the modern Olympic games, we have presented a list of seven instances of political events that occurred during the Olympic Games. Without more ado, let's begin to know how politics have affected sports during Olympic history.

Taking a Look at the list of Political Events at the Olympic Games

As we mentioned earlier, today's article is about ten significant political events at the Olympic Games. Though Olympic and various political events have happened, the coincidence between them has made them unusual, which history recalls as particular events. Stay with us till the end of the article to get various political events that Olympic has passed during its history.

The Nazi Olympics

  • Year: 1936

  • Host: Berlin

One of the 

ten significant political events at the Olympic games

 refers to the voting in 1931 that led to the election of Berlin as the host of the 1936 Olympic Games. However, two years after the vote, Nazi Party rose to power there. Following the coming to the leadership of the new party, many political changes happened in Germany.

By arising the Nazi party, they proposed various boycotts in lots of Western countries that were alongside Germany's racist policies and human rights violations. After applying the prohibitions, there were still 49 countries, which have been the most ones to attend any Olympic Games during these 124 years.

Through these cases, the German government had become an international spotlight, by which the country had gotten the opportunity of depicting itself as a favorable and growing nation. Alongside these aims, they provided fuel for its Aryan-superiority promotion, which the inconsistency of this issue with the rule that IOC had prohibited it specifically prevented its implementation. 

Additionally, IOC had ordered the German government to allow qualified Jewish athletes to participate on their team in the coming Olympics. Following the decision, Helen Mayer, the famous German-born fencer, could represent the country in women's fencing.

Jesse Owen was another athlete who appeared in the tournament due to the ruling and ended it while he had achieved four gold medals. Most believe that Owen, the record-breaker sprinter, and long jumper, could thwart the efforts of the Germans regarding Aryan superiority single-handedly. 

Germany and Japan Banned

  • Year: 1948

  • Host: London

One of the other 

political events at the Olympic Games

 is the 1948 Summer Olympics, known commonly as London 1948. The international multi-sports that lasted from 29 July to 14 August 1948 in London was the first Summer Olympic after the 12-year break of World War II.

Based on the pre-made plans, Tokyo and then Helsinki was the center of the events in 1940, and London was the one for the 1944 Olympic Games. However, it was not their first time, and they had hosted the tournament forty years ago in 1908.

In the competition, the names of Germany and Japan were not amongst the invited ones. Also, Soviet Union did not take part in the 1948 Olympic Games despite being invited. At the time, London had similar situations like many other European cities and passed the period of recovering from war. 

Lack of time to prepare for the Games made London use the sports and residential facilities that the country had already created for the competitions. Finally, Wembley Stadium became the center of hosting athletic events, which allegedly German prisoners of war had constructed in the U.K. In 2012, 64 years later, returning the Olympics to London made it the first city that hosted the competition three times. 

Cold War Tension

  • Year: 1952

  • Host: Helsinki

One of the other cases about the political events at the Olympic Games refers to the 1952 Summer Olympics that Helsinki, Finland, held this international multi-sport event from 19 July to 3 August. 

Though Tokyo, Japan, was supposed to be the host of the tournament in 1940, they announced that the ongoing Second Sino-Japanese War forced them to withdraw from it. Following Japan's retreat and by re-selecting the host of the competitions, Helsinki became the host of the 1940 Summer Olympics.

However, all these efforts ended in the cancellation of the tournament because of World War II. Finally, Helsinki hosted the games in 1952, and later in 1964, Tokyo did it. It was the first that a non-indo-European language speaking country held the competitions.

The USSR and West Germany were two participants which the former had a 40-year absence in the Olympics, and the latter had not appeared in the Games before. One of the salient features of the tournament that distinguished it from others was breaking the most world records. However, the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing surpassed them. 

Besides the mentioned items, the political events that caused the tournament to be one of the cases on our list are the coincidence of the Helsinki Games with the start of Cold War tensions. 

Two Protests

  • Year: 1956

  • Host: Melbourne

The 1956 Summer Olympics, an international multi-sport event held in Melbourn, has allocated one place amongst the 

Olympic political protests

. Australia's strict quarantine laws had caused many changes in holding Olympic equestrian and led it to be held five months earlier in Stockholm.

However, it was not the first time that holding in more than one country had happened. The 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, was the first time that a number of the competitions took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

Though most remember the tournament as a prosperous one in encountering various complications and turning it out to success, following two protests at the time, fewer than 67 countries participated in the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.

On the one hand, the head of the Suez crisis in the Middle East with Israeli brigades and on the other hand, the announcement of boycotting the Games by Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq to support of their allies had coincided with the 1956 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, the Soviet army had started an invasion against Budapest, Hungary, just before the opening ceremony. Following these political controversies and protesting them, Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands pulled out of appearing in the competitions. 

Brutal Shooting and Civil Rights Protest

  • Year: 1968

  • Host: Mexico City

Brutal Shooting and Civil Rights Protest is one of the other 

political events at the Olympic Games

, held in 1968 in Mexico City. As we have explained in the following, the 1968 Summer Olympics includes two major political events.

One of them is the protest of Mexican students, which they staged ten days before the opening ceremony of the tournament in the Plaza of Three Cultures, located in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City. Their opposition came from using the government budget for the competitions and not for social affairs.

However, it did not end in a usual protest. The Mexican army surrounded the protesters by opened fire in Plaza, which led to 200 protesters' death and injured over 1000 ones, a massive murder known as the Tlatelolco slaughter. 

On the other hand, American politics affected the athletics games. They caused Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the U.S. sprinters, to protest their country's mistreatment of black people at the award ceremony for the men's 200-meter.

They stepped into first and third-place podiums with bare feet, and while playing the U.S. national anthem with head bent down, raised a single black glove. However, IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee banned them promptly. 

Munich Massacre

  • Year: 1972

  • Host: Munich

The following section relates to the Palestinian terrorists' attack against Israel's team by which it has placed itself amongst the political events at the Olympic Games. In the early morning of 5 September in the 1972 Summer Olympics, through storming, a group of eight Palestinian terrorists affiliated the Olympic Village apartment, where Israeli athletics had resided.

Through the sneaking into there, they killed two of the athletes and took nine other ones hostage. In return for the hostages, the terrorists, who were a part of a group of a political organization in Palestine, known as Black September, demanded releasing more than 230 Arab prisoners that Israel had held in its jails beside two German terrorists.

After a clash with the German police force, whose numbers were inadequate to overcome the attackers, the terrorist took control of the transportation and arranged the hostages to a nearby airport. 

By the German police force failing to overcome the attackers, the Palestinian terrorists killed their hostages. Finally, the clashes between the police and assailants ended in the death of five out of eight Palestinian terrorists and a German police officer. 

African Countries Boycott Olympics

  • Year: 1976

  • Host: Montreal

Through the article regarding 

the political history of the modern Olympic Games

, the 1976 Summer Olympics, known as Montreal 1976, has allocated one section to itself. The international multi-sport event was in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, lasted from 17 July to 1 August 1976.

The second French-speaking city after Paris held the tournament for the first and so far only time. During the same year, they were the host of the 1976 Summer Paralympics, which are still the only ones to be held in the country. 

After reading a bit about the 1976 Summer Olympics, it is time to get what political controversy coincided with the tournament. In early 1976, the New Zealand national rugby union team toured South Africa in resistance to the United Nations' calls alongside a sporting ban of the country.

However, International Olympic Committee (IOC) denied banning New Zealand. The decision led 29 countries, most of which were African, boycotted participation in the Montreal Games. Finally, during the competitions, it was the Soviet Union that won the most gold and total number of medals. 

Boycotting Moscow Games

  • Year: 1980

  • Host: Moscow

As an international multi-sport event, the 1980 Summer Olympics were the first which Eastern Europe staged. Eighty nations participated at the Moscow Games, which after the 1956 competitions it was the smallest number of participants.

The number came from the boycott that the United States led and caused 66 countries to withdraw from appearing in the tournament due to the Soviet-Afghan War. Meanwhile, several athletes were from the boycotting countries, not from the 66 countries, took part in the Games under the Olympic Flag. However, later in the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Soviet Union boycotted the Games.

The relations between the countries, which made many boycotting, were the root of political affairs and brought the 1980 Summer Olympics to our list, containing the

political events at the Olympic Games

An explosion of Pipe Bomb

  • Year: 1996

  • Host: Atlanta

Being held without any governmental support, the 1996 Summer Olympics is one of the other items on the list of political events at the Olympic Games. The United States had held the tournament three more times before, and its fourth time coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 189th Summer Olympics in Athens.

In the Games, 26 sports, including mountain climbing, softball, lightweight rowing, women's fencing, a team rhythmic gymnastics events, and wone's association football, participated, except the first two ones, all others were new disciplines.

Additionally, beach volleyball made its Olympic debut at the tournament. As we mentioned earlier, it was the first time that the Olympic Games were not the government's support. The new style of holding led to a commercialization of the Games and aroused a wide range of disappointment.

What changed the 1996 Atlanta Olympic from an entire sports event to a political one was the explosion of a pipe bomb in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park which led to the death of two and injuries of more than 110 people. Despite being referred to as a terrorist bomb, no group or motive claimed responsibility. 

However, some years later, through a declaration regarding the bombing and a series of other related offenses, Eric Rudolph confessed to them, which led to his life imprisonment. 

Refugee Olympic Team

  • Year: 2016

  • Host: Rio de Janeiro

The 2016 Summer Olympics is one of the other tournaments which coincided with political events at the Olympic Games. A series of sports news sources published the selection news of Rio as the host of the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009. It was the first time that a Portuguese-speaking country in South America held the Olympic Games. 

Winning the most gold and the highest number of medals placed the United States on the most top of the medal table. The reason that caused us to place the item on our list comes from the refugee athletes who took part in the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. 

The IOC's goal behind the team's creation was to depict and bring the refugee crisis to the international forefront. The mentioned team consisted of athletes were from the following countries Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Each of them trained in a host country, including Kenya, Belgium, Luxembourg, Brazil, or Germany. The participant athletes in Judokas, distance runners, sprinters, and swimmers before Brazil, the host country, entered the opening ceremony while the Olympic flag was on their hands. 

As you read, within the text, we covered a list of political events at the Olympic Games and explained the related details to each one. However, there might have been some other ones, which may seem more significant in your viewpoint. Our team in 


welcomes any ideas regarding the topic. So, be in contact with us via the comment section.




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