This month, we’re honoring the 2012 London Olympics by sharing a few interesting facts on the top five most researched Summer Olympic Games in our library. Visit Questia’s topic page on the Olympics for even further research. The five most researched events range from an Olympic boycott, to Nazi involvement and even a kidnapping and murder scandal between nations. The Olympics are widely known to have originated in ancient Greece, where the celebration of contests such as the Olympic Games was intended to foster unity and prevent war among the otherwise frequently conflicting city-states. Hope for international unity remains a recurring theme at the modern Olympic Games. In honor of this year’s Summer Games as well as the obstacles the Games and our nations have overcome, we’ve opened up our library to make reference works on each event below free for a whole month. Enjoy!
- 1980 Summer Olympic Games, Moscow: In December of 1979, Soviet troops moved into Afghanistan, creating an outrage that would carry over into the 1980 Summer Olympics as the largest boycott in the history of the Games. The idea was introduced by West German Ambassador Dr. Rolf Pauls, to his government’s dismay, during an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels as a way to retaliate Soviet actions. United States President Jimmy Carter eventually issued the ultimatum. “The 1980 Olympic boycott was unprecedented in scope, however, and as such served to draw attention to a dimension of sport not normally reflected upon: politics” (Hulme ix). [Hulme, Derick L. The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott. New York: Praeger, 1990. Questia. Web.]
- 1968 Summer Olympic Games, Mexico City: The 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City proved to be memorable not only for its incredible athletic feats, but for the black power protest of Gold Medalist Tommie Smith and Bronze Medalist John Carlos as they stood on the podium to receive their awards after the 200 meter race.“1968 proved to be a year when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could hardly settle on a workable definition of ‘woman,’ never mind ‘black,’ and remained seemingly blind to how issues of media, decolonization, and black militancy might mingle to produce an Olympics unlike any before” (Bass XVII). [Bass, Amy. Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Questia. Web.]
- 1936 Summer Olympic Games, Berlin: Though the decision to hold the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany was made in 1930, reservations about the determined location intensified as the Nazis took power and implemented their anti-Semitic campaign throughout the country. This included banning Jews from German sports clubs and forbidding them to try out for Olympic teams – a decision later overturned when many countries threatened to boycott. Though Berlin pulled out all the stops for tourists during the games (reopening bars, planting lime trees, and reinstating 7,000 banned prostitutes, among other things), Nazi iconography was rampant throughout the games. Though American Olympic sensation Jesse Owens captured four gold medals during the games, Germany was victorious overall with eighty-nine medals. The United States came in second with fifty-six. [Large, David Clay. Berlin. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Questia. Web.]
- 1896 Summer Olympic Games, Athens: After the demise of the Ancient Games around 400 A.D, there were multiple attempts to revive them before 1896, which marked “the first of the new series of modern games in Athens” (Scambler 48). It is believed that Dover’s Cotswold Games held in early seventeenth-century England paid homage to the ancient Greek festivals. “They are the most prominent example of the fact that long before 1896 or even the beginning of the nineteenth century, the adjective ‘Olympic’ (whether deliberate or deserved or not) was becoming the most prized description for an athletic festival, embarking on its way to represent the modern epitome of athletic excellence as well as of ancient deeds” (Scambler 48). [Scambler, Graham. Sport and Society: History, Power and Culture. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press, 2005. Questia. Web.]
- 1972 Summer Olympic Games, Munich: The 1972 Summer Olympic Games held in Munich are tragically remembered for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. On September 5, 1972, eight members of the Black September terrorist organization broke into Olympic Village and attempted to capture thirteen Israeli athletes. Two escaped the kidnapping attempt, two were killed as they fought back and the remaining nine were held hostage as terrorists hoped Israeli and German authorities would meet their demands. Demands included the release of 234 prisoners, which included various terrorist leaders who had been previously captured, as well as three airplanes. The group changed their demands to one airplane as the Germans and Israelis were unwilling to compromise, and as the group arrived at the airport with their hostages, they were attacked by a West German anti-terrorist team. “During the ensuing firefight, the terrorists killed the nine remaining Israeli athletes, and the Germans killed five of the eight terrorists; three were captured” (Goldberg et al. 365). [Goldberg, Joseph E., et al., eds. An Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. Questia. Web.]
For information about the 2012 London Olympics including preparations and opening ceremony details, check out ESPN’s London 2012 Olympics Blog.