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Tibetans demonstrator take part during a demonstration in front of the COIB (Belgian,Interfederal,Olympic,Commitee) as they are denouncing the Olympic Games in Beijing on April 09, 2008 in Brussels. The demonstrators, angered by Beijing's crackdown on protests in Tibet which began on March 10, also called for a boycott of Chinese products if a games ban could not be agreed.
The Olympic Games allow athletes from countries around the globe to gather peacefully and compete in a myriad of sporting events. The competitors may be apolitical, but the countries that send them are most certainly not.
Countries have boycotted the games numerous times throughout history, notably the United States’ boycotting of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Afghanistan on December 27, 1979.
Four years later, the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles citing safety concerns for their athletes. By the time the Cold War ended in 1989, the major states had all returned to compete, but internal politics marred the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta when a domestic terrorist set off a bomb in Centennial Park, killing two people and injuring 111 others.
The bloodiest Olympic controversy took place during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany when the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took members of the Israeli Olympics team hostage and ended up murdering eleven of them.
Is it possible to keep politics out of the Olympics? How do athletes, spectators and host countries balance national pride and sportsmanship?
David Wallechinsky, Vice President of the International Society of Olympic Historians and author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics”