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Politicizing the Olympics, a Brief History -- PICTURES Politicizing the Olympics, a Brief History -- PICTURES

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Politicizing the Olympics, a Brief History -- PICTURES

photo of Ben  Schreckinger
July 25, 2012

The Olympic Games are supposed to be an opportunity to put aside war and politics and let the world's nations come together in the spirit of friendly competition. But the Games enjoy a rare hold on the world's attention and offer a potent metaphor for geopolitical psychodrama. These factors have often conspired to bring politics to the fore at the Olympics.

Collected here are seven examples of Olympic Games that had political narratives attached to them.

The Nazi Party hoped German prowess at the 1936 Berlin Olympics would bolster the party's claims of Aryan racial superiority. But Jesse Owens's commanding performance on the track helped undermine that goal. Here, the Olympic 4x400 relay medalists.(AP Photo)

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right), the Gold and Bronze medalists in the 200m at the 1968 Mexico Games, were kicked off the American national team for raising their fists in a "black power" salute to protest racial inequality.(AP Photo)

A pall fell over the 1972 Munich Games when the Palestinian terror group Black September took members of the Israeli team hostage, demanding the release of political prisoners. Eleven Israelis died. Here, two West German police officers move into position on the roof of the building where the hostages were held.(AP Photo)


The U.S. hockey team's 4-3 upset of the heavily favored Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid catapulted into sports legend, thanks to the Cold War overtones of the game.(AP Photo)

Sixty-two nations followed a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Athletes of several participating nations chose to use the Olympic banner instead of their national flag as a sign of protest. The Afghanistan nameplate and flag are carried between Andorra and Belgium.(AP Photo)

China's human-rights record provoked several protests and calls for boycotts ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the Games themselves went off largely without incident.(AP Photo/Greg Baker)


The 2002 Salt Lake City Games have become the center of a political controversy a decade after they ended. SEC documents uncovered by the Boston Globe contradict Mitt Romney's account of his role at Bain Capital during the time he was in charge of the Salt Lake Games. The discrepancy has yet to be fully reconciled.(AP Photo/Massimo Pinca, File)

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