European Nations and the Olympic Games: Solidarity or Antagonism? from Athens 1896 to Barcelona 1992

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 09:42
Oral Presentation
Matteo ANASTASI, LUMSA University (Rome), Italy
Roberto LUPPI, LUMSA University (Rome), Italy
"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play"

The fourth principle of the Olympic Charter summarizes the widespread belief that the values of friendship, solidarity and fair play should characterize the practice of sport and, especially, the modern sporting event par excellence, the Olympic Games. These Games combine these values with an additional aspect: that of universality. Internationalism was, in fact, one of the beliefs of Baron de Coubertin, the creator of modern Olympics, and found its graphic representation in the symbol of the Games: five intersecting circles signifying the creation of bridges between cultures and peoples.

Unquestionably, the Olympic Games have increased contacts among nations. It is more difficult to say whether these exchanges have contributed to the cause of internationalism, understood as the increase of solidarity relationships among countries. The paper aims to analyse precisely this question, in particular: is it possible to claim that the modern Olympics fostered the development of international solidarity among nations? And if so, did they contribute only to the reinforcement of pre-existing dynamics or have they served as a catalyst for developing new relations, perhaps opposing previous trends?

In this regard, the article examines five Olympic Games, which can be considered a microcosms of the international relations of their period: Athens 1896, Berlin 1936, Rome 1960, Moscow 1980 and Barcelona 1992.

The paper circumscribes its analysis to only the relations among European countries, since, in the 20th century, these nations were involved in major upheavals (World Wars, Cold War, the process of European integration), which make it a fruitful starting point for examining the influence of the Olympics in international relations.