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The Modern Olympic Games

The Olympic Games in the 20th century

Television networks buy broadcasting rights for the Games, thus providing approxi- mately half of the Olympic Movement’s income. It is the IOC’s policy to give prefer- ence to broadcasters that can guarantee free and widespread coverage within their national territory. In this way, a maximum number of viewers have the opportunity

BROADCASTING RIGHTS For further information on Olympic broadcasting, see www.olympic.org

to experience the Games.

This has helped the Olympic Games to become one of the most watched sporting events in the world!

POLITICAL EXPLOITATION OF THE GAMES Being as they are at the forefront of the international scene, the Olympic Games have the potential to be used as a propaganda tool and an instrument of political interests.

Here are some of the better-known examples: – In 1936 in Berlin (Germany), the Nazi regime appropriated the Games. In the years leading up to 1936, several governments and sports organisations expressed their concerns about the regime and its policies. The threat of a boycott hung over the Games. In the end, it was more individual convictions that prevented certain ath- letes from attending. – In 1956 in Melbourne (Australia), the Suez crisis and Soviet oppression in Hungary provoked a strong reaction from some countries, which refused to send their ath- letes to the Games. – In 1968 in Mexico City (Mexico), American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos demonstrated against racial segregation in their country. As they stood on the podium to receive their medals for the 200 m, they raised black-gloved fists and bowed their heads when the American flag was raised. This gesture was their way of showing their support for the “Black Power” movement. As a result, they were sent home. – In 1972 in Munich (Germany), Palestinian terrorists called attention to the grievances of their people by taking Israeli athletes hostage. The event ended in tragedy when the hostages were executed by the terrorists, before they in turn were killed by the police. – In 1980 in Moscow (Soviet Union), the United States called for a global boycott in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. American athletes were forbidden to take part in the Games under threat of having their passports confiscated. Many coun- tries followed the US example and stayed away from Moscow. – In 1984, in response to the American boycott of 1980, the Soviet Union refused to attend the Games in Los Angeles (USA). The official reasons given were the commer- cialisation of the Games and insufficient guarantees of athletes’ safety. WHAT IS A BOYCOTT? It is the voluntary severing of relations with a person, country or other group in order to exert pressure. Boycotts at the Olympic Games occur when a government refus- es to allow its athletes to attend the Games.

If the Games are used for political ends, the Olympic ideal is placed under threat. Nevertheless, the Olympic celebration can be used to improve relations between countries and communities.

© Olympic Museum and Studies Centre, Lausanne, 2002

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