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Politics And The Modern Olympics Essay

2415 words - 10 pages

At first thought, it may be difficult to understand any possible connection between sports and politics. The New International Webster's Dictionary of the English Language defines politics as 'the science of government', and sports as 'a particular game or physical activity pursued for diversion'. On the surface the two concepts have very little in common, yet their connection can be traced to antiquity and the first organized sporting events. The first Olympic games took place in Greece in the ninth century, b.c.e. to worship the gods, win personal glory, and, most importantly, unite the Greek city-states. At that time, Greece was made up of many small, isolated communities which, as they flourished, sought to dominate the others. The first Olympic games brought them together once every four years, and most of the city-states declared truces to allow the athletes and spectators to make their way to the games without being hurt or killed. The 'sacred truce' beginning the first known Olympic games read, "May the world be delivered from crime and killing and freed from the clash of arms" (8)

Pierre de Fredy, the Baron de Coubertin, was the founder of the modern Olympic movement. He drew his inspiration from the ancient Olympic Games. After visits to England and the United States, Coubertin formulated a plan to revive the games. In June of 1894, his vision became a reality when delegates meeting in Paris voted to hold modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 (8).

The first world leader to sponsor the Olympics for an almost purely political motive was Adolph Hitler with the 1936 Summer Games. For two weeks in August of that year, Germany was the site of the most lavish Olympic games that had been held up to that point. Hitler knew that hosting the Olympics was a virtual propaganda coup. His regime aimed to exploit the Games with the intention of dazzling the thousands of foreign spectators and journalists into believing that Germany was peaceful and tolerant instead of the racist and militant country which it actually was. (16).

Hitler employed artists to create beautiful posters and magazine spreads to advertise and promote the Games. When they included athletes in their artwork, the artists portrayed them as representatives of the Nazi myth of the "Aryan" race -- blue eyed blondes with strong, chiseled features. In this way, Hitler wanted to draw a link between Nazi Germany and Ancient Greece. (16).

Adolph Hitler opened the Eleventh Olympiad on August 1, 1936. His arrival was announced by a fanfare directed by the famous composer Richard Strauss to the mostly German spectators. Establishing a new Olympic tradition, a lone runner carried a flame which traveled by relays of runners from the site of the original ancient Games in Olympia, Greece (16)

"...Sport is prostituted when sport loses its independent and democratic character and becomes a political institution...Nazi Germany is endeavoring to use the Eleventh...

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