5 Articles on the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games in Tokyo were supposed to be in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw them moved to 2021. They are contentious — with new cases of COVID-19 still occurring around the world, and slow rollout of vaccines in some countries. This isn't the first controversial Olympic Games — there have been many scandals, controversies, and shocking things happen at Olympic Games.

The Olympics in 1936 were held in Berlin while the Nazis were in power, and had a politically charged atmosphere. The Nazi Party had risen to power in 1933 and its racist policies led to an international debate on boycotting the Olympics. The German government had received pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to promote Nazi ideology at the Games. The Germans were also required to have a Jewish athlete in their team.  The Nazi Party did not strictly adhere to the rules; there were pamphlets and speeches about the supposed superiority of the Aryan race.

1968 Mexico City Olympics were famous for podium protests, the most famous being US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute with gloved hands during the American national anthem (Tommie won gold and John won bronze for the 200 metre race). Věra Čáslavská, a gymnast from Czechoslovakia  voiced her strong opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, when she controversially tied for gold with a Soviet gymnast. She quietly turned her head down and away during the Soviet national anthem.

The Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics involved eight Palestinian terrorists invading the Olympic village and killing two Israeli athletes, and holding nine other Israeli team members hostage. All hostages, five of the captors, and a West German police officer were killed in a failed rescue attempt. All competition was suspended for a day and a memorial service was held at the Olympic Stadium.

Montreal 1976 — New Zealand was at the heart of this year's Olympic scandal. At the height of apartheid in South Africa, the United Nations had made the call for a sporting embargo of South Africa, but New Zealand sent a rugby team to tour South Africa causing international outcry. The International Olympic Committee (IOC)  were asked to ban New Zealand from the Montreal Olympic Games, the IOC didn't ban New Zealand so 25 African nations boycotted the1976 Olympics.

At the 1980 games in Moscow, the US led an international boycott in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union in return boycotted the Los Angeles games in 1984, with many Eastern Bloc countries organising there own Friendship Games instead.

Hopefully the Tokyo Games go smoothly and we get to see some world class athletes break some records. I have been exploring our magazine archives to come up with this collection of articles. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Have a look at National Geographic Magazine, Time Magazine, The Economist, Scientific American or New Zealand Geographic to see what dirt you can dig up.

  1. Again—the Olympic Challenge
    Alan J. Gould. National Geographic Magazine, vol. 126, no. 4, Oct. 1964, p. [488]+
    Database: National Geographic Archive 1888-1994
    An article from 1964, the last time the Olympics were held in Tokyo, focuses on the history of the Olympic Games which started in ancient Greece and marked by triumphant human spirit and peaceful international rivalries. Also discusses the political involvement in the Olympic Games.
  2. The steroid Olympics
    Economist, 4 July 1992, p. 105
    Database: The Economist Historical Archive
    The pressure to use drugs in the sport is mounting, this article discusses performance enhancing drugs.
  3. The Origins of the Olympic Games
    Raymond Bloch, Scientific American, 1 August 1968
    Database: Scientific American
    Competitive sports had roots in religion, mythology and military training and were nurtured by the Greek passion for excellence. Many of today's events were accurately described in the Iliad.
  4. The Games: Up in the Air
    TIME Magazine. 8/2/1976, Vol. 108 Issue 5, p. 44-50. 5p.
    Database: Time Magazine Archive
    A run down of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, including the African nations boycott and the perfect 10s scored by Nadia Comaneci.
  5. Tainted Games
    Geoff Chapple, New Zealand Geographic July-August 2008 Issue 092
    Database: New Zealand Geographic Archive
    Follows the clash in New Zealand sports and politics and looks in depth of the consequences of All Blacks tour of apartheid South Africa on the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games. It follows on with tour of the South African rugby team to New Zealand.

Other things of interest about the Olympics

  • When the Olympics Awarded Medals to Artists
    Joseph Stromberg, Scientific American, 25 July 2012
    Database: Scientific American
    In the early days of the modern Olympic Games, painters, sculptors, writers and musicians battled for gold, silver and bronze medals.
  • Marathon Madness
    Stephanie Pain,  New Scientist, 02624079, 8/7/2004, Vol. 183, Issue 2459
    Database: eResources Discovery Search
    In 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis, Thomas Hicks won the marathon he is also one of the first cases of doping for the Olympics although there are some doubts as to whether the concoction of strychnine and brandy was actually beneficial.
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