Politicization of international sports events

Other Names:
Excessive political intervention in international athletic exchanges
Politicization of international sports competitions
Political exploitation of Olympic Games
Nationalist exploitation of sporting events
Exploitation of sports and athletics for political ends

International sporting events of an official nature, that is those requiring government representation, accreditation or support, have been increasingly perceived as a vehicle for ideological and nationalist propaganda. As a result, national governments may intervene in, or try to influence, anything from the venue of the games, their arrangements, contents and rules and the training programmes of their own teams, to the constituents of these teams, that is, to the selection of the competitors and to the provision for extra incentives, or even punishments. The political abuse of world-wide sporting events can lead to their cessation or interruption. On the other hand, solution of this problem does not necessarily lead to the elimination of political exploitation of regional, national and national inter-regional, inter-linguistic and inter-ethnic games, or sporting-events associated with particular classes of society.

International sports events are intended to being together competitors from different countries to compete in honest games – "may the best man win" – without regard to his race, country of origin, or political ideology. As the world gets tenser and increasingly politicized, anger and revenge often leave the political arena and enter into sports, pulling down with them the hopes and aspirations of the sportsmen who have spent years, or even a lifetime, in preparation. Spectators, too, become pawns, as governments take away their opportunities to relax and enjoy wholesome entertainment.


The 1936 Olympic Games which the hosting Nazi-ruled Germany used to propagate its racial and national theories of supremacy were a mild example compared to the horrors of the multiple murders at the 1972 Games at Munich in the name of a foreign political cause. Third World champions withdrew from Montreal in 1976 in protest against South Africa; the USA boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and the Soviets retaliated by boycotting the 1984 Olympics hosted by the USA in Los Angeles.

Sports laws policies, and random acts of intervention by countries vary in scope and kind. To influence the international outcomes, governmental support of athletic programmes and exchange is now almost universal. The Scandinavian governments guarantee employment to cross-country skiing competitors, but this modest influence is dwarfed by the massive programmes for nationalist sporting propaganda which have been engaged in by the former German DR and the People's Republic of China. A college-bonus system of support is used in the USA, and a cash bonus and military service relation system was employed by the former Soviet Union. The use or boycotting of international sporting competitions to apply political pressure on South Africa was a new development wherein alignments of nations for political exploitation of widely viewed athletic events were made for the first time.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST