Politics and the Olympics

                From the 1970s up to now, the Olympics has not only been a showcase of athleticism in various fields of sport but has also been an avenue for political might of major countries. For instance, in the 1972 Munich Games, politics came on the forefront of the games where Palestinian separatists invaded the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village and ended in a dramatic scenario where half of the Israeli delegation was killed. Since then, the role of politics in the games proved to be essential in conducting of the games.

            Furthermore, in the latter years of the Cold War era, the United States and Russia have been significant factors in staging the Olympics. The first incident happened in 1980 during the Moscow games where the United States led a boycott of several western countries to the games to protest the invasion of the former USSR to Afghanistan. This was followed by a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by all of the Eastern Bloc countries led by USSR.

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            During the cold war era when a country needs political and military security they come to one the powers for their aid. After the wars, the only way of recovery is to side with of the powers. This has happened in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. In return is the influence of the power in their country. A country would not dare go to the Olympics without the blessing of a superpower. In short, they hold the balance of fear among countries during the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. If you side with one, you have to oppose the other.

            The good thing about the Olympics was it developed a bond among a superpower and its allied countries through sport. This relation among countries catalyzed the rapid economic recovery after the wars outside of the Olympics. Many countries showcase their development with the number of medals they won in the Olympics. It intensified the trade between countries through sponsorships and marketing. Making those countries form a closer relationship. And furthermore, the Olympics highlighted the conflict between the ideology among capitalist and socialist was resolved due to peace talks of the superpowers.

            The bad thing is some countries got left out in the development because of the continuous civil wars rooted in the conflict of ideology. During the cold war, the USA and USSR backed some of this civil war in the hope to gain influence in that country. These efforts were due to the competition to gain superiority over the other.

            On the other hand, politics has also played a major part in the selection of the host city of the Olympics. For instance, in 1993 one year after the Barcelona Olympics, the International Olympic Council (IOC) voted for Sydney, Australia to host the 2000 Olympics over Beijing, China. This was because some of the IOC members were not satisfied with how the Chinese government handled the 1991 Tianenmen Square student protest.

            On the other hand, the hosting of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics has also been seen by many critics of the Chinese government as a new platform for China to be influenced by foreign cultures to change into a democracy. Moreover, the Chinese government also used the Beijing Olympics to show the world how the country has transformed itself.

With the increasing number of foreign multinational firms on the domestic market of China, new products from other countries starts to invade the Chinese market. Commercialization provided enough resources for the Chinese economy to boom in the international trading market. This increasing number of multinational firms in China causes the establishment of six economic zones, including the Shanghai Pudong Economic Zone, in order to attract more foreign investors during the height of China’s efforts in improving its economy (Hu, 2005). Commercialization starts to invade the economic system of China but despite of this development, its political structures and policies remains intact and not coping up with the entry of commercialization on the domestic market of China. Unlike any other countries around the globe, the commercialization phenomenon on China is not being backed up with liberalization rather, the previous Chinese policies and restrictions in their domestic market remains the same creating enough room for the instability of some industries in the Chinese market.

Maybe the primary reason of China’s failure to liberalize their government which became detrimental for their 2000 bid would be the fact that their political system is being governed by authoritarian principles. The full attainment of liberalization comes with the acceptance of democracy as part of the government principle on the floors of Chinese government. But with the present status of China as well as its stand regarding the concept of democracy, it would be very hard for the Chinese government to liberalize their government restrictions on their market to back up their commercialization and consequently host the Olympics. Commercialization can be seen much on the sports development of China and with the failure of liberalization of the Chinese policies and restrictions, oftentimes, coaches and athletes which they think would create controversy to the Chinese government or politicians.

            With the rise of China, its nationalist idea of unifying “China” resulted to various human rights violations even to present date which is also an issue when they hosted the 2008 Olympics. One great example for this case would be the conflict between the Chinese government and the Tibetans primarily because China insists that Tibet is part of China months before the Beijing Games. Tibetans protested on this claim of the Chinese government which resulted to mass demonstrations which resulted to a significant number of deaths. In this case, it with the clamor of China to outlive its nationalist idealism, aside from its authoritarian governance, resulted to various human rights violations that one cannot just ignore and overlook. Furthermore, there’s also rampant political injustices which provides enough room for the Chinese politicians to easily eradicate those they considered as “threat” to their hosting of the Olympics and influence through the use of force and authority. Oftentimes, it is the journalist group tastes these injustices from the Chinese government by the time media start to impede to the actions of the Chinese politicians. Imprisonment would likely be faced by those people who will reveal the true actions and intentions of the Chinese government to the public and even those people that knows what is happening on their present government opt to remain silent just to get away with the punishing hands of the Chinese government. Because of this, several personalities withdrew their support for the Beijing Olympics such as Steven Speilberg who was supposed to help direct the opening ceremonies. Another example of human rights violation that the Chinese government committed would be the Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989 wherein violent dispersion of protesters happened between the side of the protesters and the Chinese Military troop leading to a 15-day martial law by the government. As the need for power and influence increases in the Chinese political system and the staging of the Olympics, right consciousness tends to deteriorate on the perception of every politician in China. On the other hand, various organizations that care for the welfare of powerless Chinese people and other nationalities that experiences injustices from the hands of the Chinese government officials learns more about their rights in order to protect their interest and welfare in hosting the Olympics.

The concept of politics playing alongside sportsmanship has been a “golden rule” in the world of Olympic sports. Basically, it only states that countries should show respect and should be fair in following the rules of the game in the Olympics. Not only should it apply for the countries but also, for the other factors necessary for the Olympic staging such as the host country. Politics in the Olympics plays a great role in winning an Olympic game because it becomes a part of the whole game itself in some ways. Without the necessary politics, a country can re-evaluate his abilities and the strategies that he is employing if ever he losses a game or performs lesser than his “rival” country. But this does not mean that the winner should now be always ideal. As shown in the case of the United States and USSR, training and sports development as a showcase of political platform is a must to maintain this winning streak. Also, being political builds camaraderie amongst players in their quest for the Olympic gold. For some, it is a form of socialization of countries. Not only does it create alliances but also, it can also be a foundation of connections for countries and a little bit of bragging rights. The Olympics has built the character of the countries competing. Generally, in sports, politics of a participant country is considered as the primary teachers of the athletes. They are the ones that should be responsible for how players behave and carry out the game. More importantly, political views of their country are upheld in the Olympics such that sportsmanship should be highly visible because after all, they are the ones that created great, responsible and humble players. Thru the Moscow and Los Angeles experience, they should also know how to accept defeat gracefully because after all, in every game, there is always a winner and a loser. This should also be true for Beijing where they lost the bid for the 2000 Olympics but went back in hosting the 2008 edition of the games. Furthermore, the political view of the host country is important since they are considered as the “big boss” in that year’s game and consequently, they can serve as a door for opportunities and a great entertainment for the audience. Lastly, to make this whole Olympic political philosophy be holistic, it should also apply with the kind of audiences who watch and patronize the Olympic Games.

In conclusion, the concept of politics in the Olympics and the brand of sportsmanship has long been around and it is practiced since time in memoriam. It is an unwritten wherein it can save or break an Olympic game since it has been an unwritten rule to respect the ideals of the host country.

References:

Fred Halliday. (2001) “Cold War” The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2e. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press Inc.

Peak, K. Sportsmanship [Electronic Version]. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from http://www.thewiccanmother.com/html/sportsmanship.html.

Sanders, S. (2005). Sportsmanship [Electronic Version]. Sports. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/sports/sportsmanship.html.

Senn, A. E. (1999). Power, Politics, and the Olympic Games. Champaign, ILHuman Kinetics Publishers: Human Kinetics Publishers.

 

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