Olympic Games and Politics

Use this chart to learn how politics have affected and influenced the Olympic Games.
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1896 Athens The first Olympiad was celebrated in Athens, where an estimated 245 athletes (all men) from 14 nations competed.
1908 London Finland, then ruled by Russia, were told that they could not march with their own flag. The furious Finns elected to march with no flag at all
1916 Berlin Cancelled due to WWI. This would have been the sixth in the four-year Olympic cycle and it was counted as such.
1920 Antwerp Less than two years after the armistice, the Olympics resumed in Belgium, a symbolic and austere choice considering it had been occupied for four years by enemy forces. Twenty-nine countries sent athletes to the Games. Germany and Austria, the defeated enemies of Belgium and the Allies, were not invited. The Olympic oath and the Olympic Flag, with its five multicolored, intersecting rings, made their first appearance at the Antwerp Games.
1928 Amsterdam These Games marked Germany's return to the Olympics after serving a 10-year probation for its "aggressiveness" in WW I. It was also the first Olympics that women were allowed to participate in track and field (despite objections from Pope Pius IX). Previously, women's summer sports had included swimming, diving, and tennis, only.
1932 Los Angeles Despite a world-wide depression, 37 countries sent athletes to Los Angeles.
1936 Berlin In Berlin, dictator Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers felt sure that the Olympics would be the ideal venue to demonstrate Germany's oft-stated racial superiority. He directed that $25 million be spent on the finest facilities, the cleanest streets and the temporary withdrawal of all outward signs of the state-run anti-Jewish campaign. Despite the state's attitudes, German crowds applauded thunderously, as world record-holder Jesse Owens, a black sharecropper's son from Alabama, stole the show, winning his three individual events and adding a fourth gold medal in the 4 X 100-meter relay.
1940 Tokyo By mid-1938 Japan was at war with China and withdrew as host. The venue was transferred to Helsinki, however, Finnish preparations were halted with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1939. By then, Germany had invaded Poland, and WW II had begun.
1948 London Although much of the British capital had been reduced to rubble in the blitz, the games were held in London. Germany and Japan were not invited. The Soviet Union was invited, but chose not to show.
1952 Helsinki The Soviet Union returned to the Olympics after a 40-year absence. The Soviet Union had invaded Finland twice during WW II.
1956 Melbourne Armed conflicts in Egypt and Hungary threatened to disrupt the 1956 Games, which were scheduled to begin on Nov. 22. In July, Egypt seized the Suez Canal from British and French control. In October, Britain and France invaded Egypt in an attempt to retake the canal. Then in November, Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary to crush and anti-Communist revolt. Despite the political unrest, the Games were a success.
1960 Rome Free of political entanglements, save the ruling that Nationalist China had to compete as Formosa, the 1960 Games attracted a record 5,348 athletes from 83 countries. This was the first Summer Games covered by U.S. television.
1964 Tokyo Tokyo welcomed the world to the first Asian Olympics. The new Japan spared no expense . a staggering $3 billion was spent to rebuild the city.
1968 Mexico City In this same year, the Vietnam War continued, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy occurred, and the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Ten days before the Olympics over 30 Mexico City university students were killed by army troops when a campus protest turned into a riot. Still, the Games began on time and were free of discord until black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished first and third in the 200 meter-run, bowed their heads and gave the Black Power salute during the national anthem as a protest against racism in the U.S. They were immediately thrown off the team by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
1972 Munich

On Sept. 5, with six days left in the Games, eight Arab commandos slipped into the Olympic Village, killed two Israeli team members and seized nine others as hostages. Early the next morning, all nine were killed in a shootout between the terrorists and West German police. After suspending competition for 24 hours and holding a memorial, the games continued.

1976 Montreal Right before the Games were scheduled to open, 32 nations, most of them from black Africa, walked out when the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand because its national rugby team was touring racially segregated South Africa. Taiwan withdrew when Communist China pressured trading partner Canada to deny the Taiwanese the right to compete as the Republic of China.
1980 Moscow Over 60 nations, including West Germany and Japan, stayed away from the Moscow games in support of the American-led boycott to protest the December 1979, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Others, such as Britain and France, while supporting the boycott, allowed their Olympic committees to participate if they wished.
1984 Los Angeles This time, the Soviet Union and 13 Communist allies stayed home in payback for the West's snub of Moscow in 1980.
1988 Seoul For the first time since Munich in 1972, there was no organized boycott of the Summer Olympics. Cuba and Ethiopia stayed away in support of North Korea (the IOC turned down the North Koreans' demand to co-host the Games, so they refused to participate), but that was it.
1992 Barcelona Germany competed under one flag for the first time since 1964. 12 nations from the Soviet Union joined forces one last time as the Unified Team.
1996 Atlanta A bomb was detonated by an American domestic terrorist at the Centennial Olympic Park killing two and injuring 111.
2008 Beijing The Beijing Games (Summer 2008) were the largest with a record of 10,500 competitors from 204 nations competing.

Return to Politics and the Olympics Lesson Plan.

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