History and politics at the Olympics

“The Olympics Games are fascinating because they’re sort of built on this bedrock of contradiction… They’re supposed to be apolitical… But to participate in the Olympics, you have to represent a nation… So all of the great international tensions, every four years, … resurface and manifest themselves in these sporting arenas.”

For history lecturer Matthew Andrews, sports aren’t merely games. Sports reflect the social, cultural and political issues happening around us. And the Olympics—originally created to celebrate mankind and athletic achievement—provide a world stage where many of these issues have played out since the modern day Games launched in 1896 in Greece. Each semester, Andrews and his students explore how sports both reflect and affect politics, race and gender, and social reform movements, particularly in America.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Leck and Synapse magazine.

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