Olympic games are not only sport. It is also, for some countries or athletes, the good occasion to bring political revendications in the international arena.
It was one of the most expected moments of the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Friday, February 9.
They were welcomed by supporters joined together under the same blue-and-white unification flag.
The two countries are split since 1945 and South Korea is still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War which ended in a truce. Their relationship seems now appeased for the “Peace Olympics”.
It is not the first time that political games enter Olympic competitions.
German capital city won the bid to host the Games on April 1931 at the 29th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Barcelona — two years before the Nazis came to power.
Some voices had been raised to ask the suspension of Berlin Games while the first antisemitic measures were taken in Germany. The United States refused to boycott the event and most of the european countries participated.
Three years after their election, Nazis used the hosting of the Summer Olympics as the way to showcase the German power before the eyes of the whole world.
During the Opening Ceremony, 100.000 arms raised to make a Nazi salute representing the success of Hitler’s propaganda.
On December 1956, Australia hosted Summer Olympics and arbitrate in the same time a geopolitic settling of accounts.
A water polo match between Hungary and the USSR echoed the Hungarian Revolution against Soviet-imposed policies which occurred the previous months.
In Melbourne’s swimming-pool, the match turned into brawl — even the public joined the fight – forcing authorities to take action.
This event has been then coined the “Blood in the Water match” after Hungarian player Ervin Zádor emerged during the last two minutes with blood pouring from above his eye after being punched by Soviet player Valentin Prokopov.
Hungary defeated the USSR 4–0.
Fist in the air
October, 17, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos are gold and bronze medallists in 200 meters sprint. On the podium, in front of the cameras from all around the world, when the American national anthem shrills, the two athletes bring their heads down and raise their black-gloved fists up.
A movement that opposes African-American conditions in the United States.
The controversy is immediate. The next morning, they are banned of the Olympic Village by the IOC chairman, the American Avery Brundage, who refused that a sportive competition be used as a political platform.
Their careers are then broken. Tommie Smith and John Carlos will be barred from competition for life. Ignored and left out by Washington for decades, they are finally honored and invited in the White House by the former president Barack Obama in 2016.
Twenty-seven years after the collapse of Naziregime, Germany is hosting Summer Olympics again. No propaganda but another drama played on an Israeli-Palestinian background.
September, 5, 1972, 8 members of “Black September” Palestinian terrorist organisation broke into the Olympic Village, killed 2 Israeli athletes and took 9 others hostage.
The German authorities planned to ambush them there, but underestimated the numbers of their opposition and were thus undermanned — the subsequent standoff lasted for almost 18 hours. During a botched rescue attempt, all of the Israeli hostages were killed. The five remaining hostages were then machine-gunned to death. All but three of the terrorists were killed as well.
The Olympic events were suspended several hours after the initial attack, but once the incident was concluded, Avery Brundage, the International Olympic Committee president, declared “the Games must go on”.
MOSCOW 1980 – LOS ANGELES 1984
In 1980, USA boycotted Moscow Summer Olympics to oppose Soviet intervention in Afghanistan the previous year.
The goal of this boycott and of the whole Cold War is to isolate USSR. The US initiative is followed by dozens of Allied — totally, 65 countries declined the Soviet invitation (West Germany, Canada, Japan…).
In 1984, it is United Sates’ turn to host Olympics in Los Angeles. The response is logical: Soviet bloc nations, except Romania, decided to boycott the competition. Fourteen countries, among them Cuba, East Germany and North Korea, won’t be represented.
Finally, the 1984 boycott hide an important information for the future: China didn’t join the soviet initiative and even decide to make its come-back in Los Angeles Games whereas Chinese didn’t compete in Olympics since 1952.
The first sign of a detachment between the two communists giants.