Thursday, June 21, 2012

The History of the Olympic Games - Part 4

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

Back to Part 3

Part 4: Television and Tragedy

The next five Olympiads would be turning points for a variety of reasons, as well as bringing into question the financial and political viability of the Games.

The 1964 Games in Tokyo were the first to be televised worldwide, which was the turning point for the global popularity that the Games now hold, with every station in every country either broadcasting, or at the very least reporting, on the Games via various media outlets. The 1968 Games in Mexico City then took the broadcasting to another level, as these were the first games the closing ceremony was transmitted in color all over the world. Dick Fosbury introduced the now universally used Fosbury Flop in the high jump. Bob Beamon took the long jump world records, which would stand for 23 years. And the famous shot of Tommie Smith & John Carlos on the podium, holding up one hand each with black gloves on, in protest against segregation in the USA also occurred in Mexico City. That was a peaceful protest compared to what occurred in 1972 in Munich. A Palestinian group, titled ‘Black September’ took Israeli athletes hostage and demanded that Israel release Palestinian prisoners. There was a standoff and unfortunately 15 people died in the aftermath of the hostage situation.

Thankfully, this event has never been repeated at the Olympics, however Montreal in 1976 was not without controversy. Due to poor planning, and suspected fraud from contractors, the 1976 Olympics were the most expensive in Olympic history, until 2008, and the city faced debt for over 20 years after the Games had finished. Many African countries boycotted the Games due to a recent tour of the New Zealand rugby team of apartheid-run South Africa, but otherwise the Games were a fairly peaceful event. Romanian Nadia Com─âneci dominated the gymnastics competition, with two out of four perfect scores, and the Romanian ruling of the gymnastics floor, which continued for years to come, began.

In 1980, the Games were held in Moscow, but due to the Soviet Union’s part in the Afghan Civil War, and the already largely out of favor government, this led to 66 countries boycotting the Games. Countries included Canada, Japan, USA and West Germany, who were all powers not only in the political world, but also in the sporting world, which therefore meant that the Soviet Union dominated the medal tables with no real challenge. Because of this, in 1984, the Soviet Union and their allies boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in retaliation. This meant, in turn, that it was the USA who dominated the medal tables this time around! These Games were the most commercial to have been held at that time, which may have been one of the reasons that the 1984 Games become the first to make a substantial profit. With this, and the fact there was no real political agenda from any nation attending, these Games were deemed a success all round.

Was this finally a corner that had been turned? Find out in Part 5.

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