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  Politics and the Olympics
Updated 12 February 2002, 16.41

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Globalisation - political implications

A flag found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center was brought into the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Students debate the issues involved when politics influence the Olympics.

Learning aims

  • Case studies of politics influencing the Olympics
  • Debate the issue of politics and sport

The tattered US flag
Main activity
Organise a whole-class discussion using our guide

The student acting as the chair opens the meeting by reading out the story

The student acting as proposer then reads out the motion:

"This house believes that politics should be kept out of the Olympic Games."

Notes for the main speeches can be found in


Further instructions can be found in

Recap on the main teaching points and the chair announces the outcome of the vote.

Teachers' Background

  • London, 1908: 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.

  • Amsterdam, 1928: 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 only included swimming, diving, and tennis.

  • Berlin, 1936: Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers felt sure that the Olympics would be the ideal venue to demonstrate Germany's racial superiority. Despite the state's attitudes, German crowds applauded Jesse Owens, a black American athlete, as he stole the show by winning four gold medals.

  • London, 1948: Although much of the British capital had been reduced to through bombings, the games were held in London. Germany and Japan were not invited. The Soviet Union was invited, but chose not to appear.

  • Mexico City, 1968: Ten days before the Olympics over 30 Mexico City university students were killed by army troops when a campus protest turned into a riot. Black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute during their national anthem as a protest against racism in the U.S. They were immediately thrown off the team by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

  • Munich, 1972: 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. The competition was suspended for 24 hours and a memorial was held before the games continued.

  • Montreal, 1976: 32 nations, most of them from Africa, walked out when the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand because its national rugby team was touring racially-segregated South Africa.

  • Moscow, 1980: Over 60 nations stayed away from the Moscow games in support of the American-led boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Others, such as Britain and France, while supporting the boycott, allowed their Olympic committees to participate if they wished.

  • Los Angeles, 1984: The Soviet Union and 13 Communist allies stayed away for the West's snub of Moscow in 1980.

  • Seoul, 1988: For the first time since Munich in 1972, there was no organized boycott of the Summer Olympics.

Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 2002

  • More than 50,000 people stood in silence as the American flag found among the debris of the World Trade Center was brought into the stadium at Salt Lake by eight US athletes flanked by New York police and firefighters.

  • George W Bush opened the Games by adding patriotic words to the traditional greeting: "On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation, I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Olympic Winter Games."

For all links and resources click at top right.

More InfoBORDER=0
SportEmotional start for Winter Olympics
Find OutGuide to the Winter Olympics
Find OutHow to hold a debate


Web Links
Salt Lake 2002
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