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Politics & The Olympic Games

May 21, 2021
History
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26
minutes
Sports
Greece
Politics
US politics
Apartheid
Hitler
Weird history

The Olympics are meant to be a politics-free zone.

But is this ever really possible?

In this episode, we'll learn about the history of The Olympics, and analyse five times politics was at the heart of the games.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about The Olympic Games, and specifically, politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:00:32] The Olympic Games are, supposedly, a politics-free event. 

[00:00:37] But history shows us that it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:00:42] With the upcoming summer Olympic games in Tokyo, then the Winter Olympic Games happening in 2022 in Beijing, now is an excellent time to ask ourselves the question of whether politics can, and should, ever be kept separate from the games.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:15] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 160 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:36] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:46] So, if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:56] OK then, politics and The Olympics.

[00:02:00] Let’s start with some history.

[00:02:02] Our story starts, as many great stories do, in Ancient Greece.

[00:02:08] Specifically, in the large peninsula in southern Greece, the Peloponnese, and in the town of Olympia.

[00:02:16] When the first Olympics actually took place is not completely clear, but the first written records date back to 776 B.C, almost 2,800 years ago.

[00:02:30] It started out, so historians believe, as a festival to honour the Greek God Zeus. 

[00:02:38] Although it was obviously significantly smaller, the general idea was similar to today’s Olympic Games - a series of athletic competitions - running, jumping, wrestling, and so on.

[00:02:53] Ancient Greece at this time was a collection of different city-states, which were often at war with each other.

[00:03:00] These city-states would send their best athletes to Olympia to compete in the games. 

[00:03:08] One can imagine that, as there is now, it would be a matter of great pride if an athlete from your city-state, your athlete, won a competition.

[00:03:19] So, even from the outset, from the very first Olympic games, politics was an important part of it.

[00:03:28] There is a theory that these warring Greek city-states, these city-states that were fighting with each other, would call a temporary truce, a temporary peace, in order for athletes to travel to Olympia and take part in the games, but that is now believed to be a bit of a modern-day myth.

[00:03:49] In any case, the games became very popular. 

[00:03:53] They were held every 4 years between August 6 and September 19, and they were so important that ancient Greek historians actually used to use the four-year periods between the games as a reference point for historical events.

[00:04:11] The Ancient Olympics, as they are now called, continued for over a thousand years, and only stopped in the year AD 393. 

[00:04:22] By this time, Ancient Greece had been conquered by Rome, and the Romans were in control of these games.

[00:04:30] In 380AD, Christanity had become the only accepted religion in the Roman empire, and all other religions or belief systems were considered pagan

[00:04:43] As they were thought to be a celebration of the ancient Greek gods, the Olympics games were considered pagan, and were banned outright, they were stopped, and there were no Olympics for one and a half thousand years.

[00:04:57] That was the end of the Ancient Olympics. 

[00:05:01] Now, let’s skip forward to the 19th century, and talk about the rebirth of The Olympics, and the modern Olympic Games

[00:05:11] To give you some additional context to this, Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire had been achieved in 1830, and there was a revival of national pride in things regarded as distinctively Greek.

[00:05:28] Athletic competitions similar to The Ancient Olympics had taken place in 1859, 1870 and 1875, but they were all relatively small-scale.

[00:05:41] It wasn’t until the arrival of a French aristocrat, a man named Baron Pierre de Coubertin that the Olympic Games as we know them today were developed.

[00:05:53] This young Frenchman was obsessed with the idea of physical exercise as a way of preventing illness and keeping healthy. 

[00:06:02] He had travelled to Olympia, he knew about this ancient tradition, and proposed the idea of reviving the Olympic Games, partly with his mission of promoting physical exercise and also just as a great international competition. 

[00:06:21] He was given the authority to restart the games, and in 1894, almost exactly 1,500 years after the last Olympic Games, The International Olympic Committee, the IOC, was formed.

[00:06:37] Now, back to the question of politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:06:42] The first Olympic Games in 1896 were held in Greece, in Athens, as one might expect. 

[00:06:49] The first question the organisers had to ask themselves was “well, who is invited?”

[00:06:56] As you may know, this period of history saw a number of big military clashes within Europe; in 1870 the Franco-Prussian war had seen France heavily defeated, and there were some question marks over whether Prussia would be invited.

[00:07:14] But, to Baron de Coubertin’s credit, he did choose to include Germany in the first games. 

[00:07:22] We will soon see though that participation in the games, both countries not being allowed to participate, and countries choosing not to participate for political reasons, will be a feature throughout the history of the modern games.

[00:07:39] And indeed let’s jump to the Olympic Games in Berlin, in 1936, for our first modern example of a political Olympic Games.

[00:07:49] In the Olympic Games of 1920 and 1924, as a punishment for its actions in World War I, Germany had been excluded, it had not been allowed to participate in the games.

[00:08:03] But, in 1936 it was the host nation, the games were to take place in Germany.

[00:08:10] By 1936, the Nazi regime was in full control of the country, and it sought to use the Olympic Games as a way of demonstrating both the fact that Nazi Germany was a functioning, successful country, and secondly that the Aryan race, the white, northern European people were superior in every way, particularly physically.

[00:08:37] I imagine you may have seen pictures or video clips from this Olympic Games, with people in the crowd doing the Nazi salute, with their right hands in the air, and people in their military uniforms.

[00:08:52] Now, at least when it comes to Hitler and the Nazis' theory of Aryan superiority, that was clearly proved wrong, when Jesse Owens, the American black athlete, won four gold medals and was the star of the competition.

[00:09:10] But the fact that the Olympics were held in the capital of Nazi Germany helped legitimise the regime, and show it to the world. 

[00:09:19] The Nazi emblem, the Swastika, was on full display, and there was implicit endorsement, or support, given to the regime by the Olympic committee.

[00:09:32] Now, it is perhaps easy to say with retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight, that these games shouldn’t have been held in Berlin, but it does raise the question of what types of countries should be allowed to hold the Olympics? 

[00:09:48] Yes, probably not countries with regimes that look like they might commit genocide, but where do you draw the line?

[00:09:56] One only needs to look at some of the countries that have been awarded the Olympics in the past 20 years or so to find examples of countries that have at least been accused of some pretty terrible crimes.

[00:10:11] Let’s move on to Mexico City, in 1968.

[00:10:15] These games actually have two important examples of politics and the games, one domestic and the other international. 

[00:10:25] Firstly, 10 days before the opening of the games there was a protest by Mexican students against the amount of money that had been spent on the games. 

[00:10:35] Instead, they believed that it should have been spent on domestic social programmes, that the money should have been spent helping Mexicans, not building expensive stadiums for an international event. 

[00:10:49] Eager to not have any disruption to the first Olympics in Mexico, and indeed the first Olympics in Latin America, the Mexican police attacked the plaza where the students were gathering, killing 200 people and injuring 1,000 more.

[00:11:06] But the most famous of the political events at these games was to come during the actual events, and on the field. 

[00:11:16] In America, the civil rights movement had been going on for almost 20 years. 

[00:11:22] African Americans had been fighting for equal rights and had been struggling against systemic racism in the U S. 

[00:11:31] The podium for the 200m race was to become a centre of political demonstration, and the scene of probably the most iconic photo in Olympic political history.

[00:11:44] An American, Tommie Smith, had won the race.

[00:11:48] An Australian, Peter Norman, came second.

[00:11:50] And another American, John Carlos, came third.

[00:11:54] Tommie Smith and John Carlos were both black, they were African Americans.

[00:12:00] As they received their medals, Tommie Smith and John Carlos lowered their heads and raised one hand, covered by a black glove and clenched into a fist.

[00:12:13] You will no doubt have seen this picture, but what you might have missed is some of the finer, more poignant details.

[00:12:22] Carlos and Smith had taken off their shoes and put on black socks to symbolise the poverty in which many black American people lived. 

[00:12:32] If you look closer at Carlos‘s neck you will see a bead necklace worn to represent the lynchings, the killings of black Americans, which were all too common at the time.

[00:12:45] The International Olympic Committee was furious

[00:12:48] This was a political statement, and The Olympics were meant to be an apolitical event, politics weren’t meant to be involved in the games. 

[00:12:59] The President of the IOC ordered for Carlos and Smith to be removed from the US Olympic team, but the team refused.

[00:13:09] Interestingly, when the President of the IOC was questioned about why this, what's called, Black Power salute, this gesture that Carlos and Smith had done was unacceptable but why the Nazi salute was acceptable back in 1936, his response was that the Nazi salute was a national salute, and therefore was acceptable.

[00:13:36] Legally, one might say he was correct, it was a national salute, but morally it would be hard to make that argument.

[00:13:45] In any case, by this time, it was clear that it was going to be incredibly hard to actually make The Olympics a politics-free zone.

[00:13:55] Moving on to our next example, the political actions didn’t come from the athletes, but against the athletes.

[00:14:05] You may be familiar with the events of 1972 in Munich.

[00:14:10] 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terror group Black September. 

[00:14:19] This led to the so-called “Munich Massacre“ which resulted in the terrorists first killing two of the Israeli athletes and then other nine being murdered later on as special forces tried to rescue them. 

[00:14:34] This was a different kind of political gesture

[00:14:37] The world was watching, and people who had not known much about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East became fully aware as a result of these tragic circumstances. 

[00:14:49] The Olympics became a live theatre for Middle-eastern Politics, and it was clear that it was an incredibly effective stage for getting one’s message across, or at least highlighting an issue that most people around the world might not have been aware of.

[00:15:06] Just four years later, in Montréal in 1976, we encountered a different kind of example.

[00:15:15] There is still the constant of The Olympic Games being used as a way to force political actions, and promote or discourage political beliefs in countries thousands of miles away from where the games are taking place.

[00:15:29] This time though, we are talking about apartheid, the racist policy of the South African government that forced segregation between the white and black population.

[00:15:41] This was a system of institutionalised racial discrimination, which legislated for superior facilities and opportunities for the minority white people and condemned the indigenous black population to inferior opportunities and therefore blatant, legalised and statutory discrimination

[00:16:04] But these games don't include the South African Olympic team.

[00:16:08] South Africa was already not allowed to participate in the Olympics games, and hadn’t been since 1964, because of its policy of separating white and black athletes.

[00:16:21] Indeed, there was a worldwide sporting ban on South Africa, meaning that other countries weren’t allowed to play against the South African national team.

[00:16:31] But, the New Zealand rugby team had recently toured South Africa, they had broken this international boycott of the country. 

[00:16:40] There was an outcry from multiple African nations, who said that New Zealand should be banned from the Olympics in Montreal for breaking the boycott.

[00:16:51] But, the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) didn’t ban New Zealand. 

[00:16:57] And as a result, 29 countries, mostly African nations, pulled out of the competition in disgust.

[00:17:06] Another notable, but unrelated political event during these games was Taiwan pulling out

[00:17:13] It had previously competed under the name The Republic of China, but was told by Canada that it couldn’t use that name, because it was too similar to The People’s Republic of China, which had been officially recognised by Canada in 1970.

[00:17:30] This is, of course, an ongoing issue in the Olympics today, and Taiwan, otherwise known as The Republic of China, normally competes under the name Chinese Taipei.

[00:17:41] Now, Montreal in 1976 was an example of countries using The Olympics to take a political stance, or to make a political point, that is completely unrelated to the country in which the games are being hosted.

[00:17:57] But, what happens when the Olympics are hosted in a country that has not been behaving particularly well?

[00:18:05] We saw that it didn’t do any harm to Nazi Germany, and in fact gave it some credibility, but half a century later, had the world learned anything from this?

[00:18:16] Well, the 1980 Olympics in Moscow suggest that things did change.

[00:18:22] One of the last attempts of the USSR to assert its military might and political will as a superpower, even though it was a failing one at the time, was to invade Afghanistan, which it did on Christmas Eve of 1979. 

[00:18:40] As a result of this, a large number of countries, including the USA, boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, they didn’t take part in the games. 

[00:18:50] Perhaps unsurprisingly, the USSR and 14 other nations, all Eastern Bloc satellite states and allies of the USSR, responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Games 4 years later, in 1984. 

[00:19:07] As the English saying goes, it was a case of tit for tat, one action taken because of another. 

[00:19:15] This leaves us neatly on to the next leg of this saga, which we will be our last one:

[00:19:23] For this one we will stay in Russia, and talk about doping in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

[00:19:31] Vladimir Putin, boosted by the popularity he was enjoying as head of a Russian state that was prosperous with such strong global demand for oil and gas, had managed to persuade the IOC that Russia should host the Winter Olympics in 2014. 

[00:19:50] Putin, himself a black belt in judo and a man whose own public image was heavily dependent on his own personal physical prowess, whether riding a horse shirtless or showing his skill and strength in judo, aimed to use the Winter Olympics in order to showcase Russia‘s strength in sporting terms. 

[00:20:14] You can, with the benefit of hindsight, see this as part of a coherent and determined plan to assert Russian power, alongside its continued military strength and increasing willingness to intervene internationally, a tendency that became evident with military interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Crimea subsequently.

[00:20:39] Much to the embarrassment of Russia, the Russian Doping Scandal resulted in an independent report, the McLaren Report, concluding in 2016 that the collusion or secret cooperation between different elements of the Russian state had been complete and thorough – in other words this was a large-scale, top-down effort to ensure that Russian athletes were able to use performance-enhancing drugs and therefore to cheat with the assistance of the state at the very highest level. 

[00:21:15] This resulted in a total of 47 Olympic medals being taken away from Russian athletes who had won them in the London 2012 Olympics and a two year ban on Russia competing in international sporting events.

[00:21:31] So, this is, of course, on one level just simple cheating, but on another level shows us how far some countries are prepared to go to win a competition.

[00:21:43] For Putin, winning a gold medal wasn’t just about the glory of being the best at a particular sport, it was about showcasing the strength of Russia, and of how the country had prospered under his leadership.

[00:21:59] And it was a little bit embarrassing when it completely backfired.

[00:22:04] So, I think that by now we have realised that politics and The Olympics go hand in hand, it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:22:15] In fact, it is much harder now than it was even 20 years ago. 

[00:22:20] Many Olympic athletes are celebrities in their own right

[00:22:25] 20 or 30 years ago they might have needed to wait until they were on the pitch, or receiving a medal, to make a gesture that symbolised their beliefs. 

[00:22:36] Now, they can share it on their own social media channels and know that it can reach tens or hundreds of millions of people in minutes, there is no longer anything between the athletes and the people who follow them.

[00:22:50] So, if we are in agreement that politics and the Olympics are inseparable, where does this leave us?

[00:22:58] What criteria should countries have to meet if they want to hold the Olympics?

[00:23:04] Should Olympic athletes have to meet certain criteria in terms of their political beliefs in order to represent their country? 

[00:23:13] How should athletes be required to behave? 

[00:23:16] Is it different during The Olympics? 

[00:23:19] Can they say one thing on their private social media accounts but have to say another thing when receiving a medal?

[00:23:26] Again, there are no easy answers to this, and I will leave you to make up your own mind.

[00:23:30] Let us give the last word on the subject to two contrasting characters: Vladimir Putin and George Orwell.

[00:23:36] At a news conference before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Putin said that the banning of Russian athletes would be a “dangerous recurrence of politics interfering in sport."

[00:23:56] Or are you inclined to agree with one of my heroes, George Orwell, who described sport as “war minus the shooting”?

[00:24:08] OK then, that is it for today's episode on politics and the Olympic games I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and when it comes to the upcoming games in Tokyo and Beijing, well, you’ll have a bit of background to it.

[00:24:27] Who knows what other political controversies might happen at these two..

[00:24:32] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:36] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:47] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, the subtitles, and the key vocabulary, then the place to go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:25:04] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:25:16] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.


[00:25:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:28] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about The Olympic Games, and specifically, politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:00:32] The Olympic Games are, supposedly, a politics-free event. 

[00:00:37] But history shows us that it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:00:42] With the upcoming summer Olympic games in Tokyo, then the Winter Olympic Games happening in 2022 in Beijing, now is an excellent time to ask ourselves the question of whether politics can, and should, ever be kept separate from the games.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:15] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 160 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:36] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:46] So, if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:56] OK then, politics and The Olympics.

[00:02:00] Let’s start with some history.

[00:02:02] Our story starts, as many great stories do, in Ancient Greece.

[00:02:08] Specifically, in the large peninsula in southern Greece, the Peloponnese, and in the town of Olympia.

[00:02:16] When the first Olympics actually took place is not completely clear, but the first written records date back to 776 B.C, almost 2,800 years ago.

[00:02:30] It started out, so historians believe, as a festival to honour the Greek God Zeus. 

[00:02:38] Although it was obviously significantly smaller, the general idea was similar to today’s Olympic Games - a series of athletic competitions - running, jumping, wrestling, and so on.

[00:02:53] Ancient Greece at this time was a collection of different city-states, which were often at war with each other.

[00:03:00] These city-states would send their best athletes to Olympia to compete in the games. 

[00:03:08] One can imagine that, as there is now, it would be a matter of great pride if an athlete from your city-state, your athlete, won a competition.

[00:03:19] So, even from the outset, from the very first Olympic games, politics was an important part of it.

[00:03:28] There is a theory that these warring Greek city-states, these city-states that were fighting with each other, would call a temporary truce, a temporary peace, in order for athletes to travel to Olympia and take part in the games, but that is now believed to be a bit of a modern-day myth.

[00:03:49] In any case, the games became very popular. 

[00:03:53] They were held every 4 years between August 6 and September 19, and they were so important that ancient Greek historians actually used to use the four-year periods between the games as a reference point for historical events.

[00:04:11] The Ancient Olympics, as they are now called, continued for over a thousand years, and only stopped in the year AD 393. 

[00:04:22] By this time, Ancient Greece had been conquered by Rome, and the Romans were in control of these games.

[00:04:30] In 380AD, Christanity had become the only accepted religion in the Roman empire, and all other religions or belief systems were considered pagan

[00:04:43] As they were thought to be a celebration of the ancient Greek gods, the Olympics games were considered pagan, and were banned outright, they were stopped, and there were no Olympics for one and a half thousand years.

[00:04:57] That was the end of the Ancient Olympics. 

[00:05:01] Now, let’s skip forward to the 19th century, and talk about the rebirth of The Olympics, and the modern Olympic Games

[00:05:11] To give you some additional context to this, Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire had been achieved in 1830, and there was a revival of national pride in things regarded as distinctively Greek.

[00:05:28] Athletic competitions similar to The Ancient Olympics had taken place in 1859, 1870 and 1875, but they were all relatively small-scale.

[00:05:41] It wasn’t until the arrival of a French aristocrat, a man named Baron Pierre de Coubertin that the Olympic Games as we know them today were developed.

[00:05:53] This young Frenchman was obsessed with the idea of physical exercise as a way of preventing illness and keeping healthy. 

[00:06:02] He had travelled to Olympia, he knew about this ancient tradition, and proposed the idea of reviving the Olympic Games, partly with his mission of promoting physical exercise and also just as a great international competition. 

[00:06:21] He was given the authority to restart the games, and in 1894, almost exactly 1,500 years after the last Olympic Games, The International Olympic Committee, the IOC, was formed.

[00:06:37] Now, back to the question of politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:06:42] The first Olympic Games in 1896 were held in Greece, in Athens, as one might expect. 

[00:06:49] The first question the organisers had to ask themselves was “well, who is invited?”

[00:06:56] As you may know, this period of history saw a number of big military clashes within Europe; in 1870 the Franco-Prussian war had seen France heavily defeated, and there were some question marks over whether Prussia would be invited.

[00:07:14] But, to Baron de Coubertin’s credit, he did choose to include Germany in the first games. 

[00:07:22] We will soon see though that participation in the games, both countries not being allowed to participate, and countries choosing not to participate for political reasons, will be a feature throughout the history of the modern games.

[00:07:39] And indeed let’s jump to the Olympic Games in Berlin, in 1936, for our first modern example of a political Olympic Games.

[00:07:49] In the Olympic Games of 1920 and 1924, as a punishment for its actions in World War I, Germany had been excluded, it had not been allowed to participate in the games.

[00:08:03] But, in 1936 it was the host nation, the games were to take place in Germany.

[00:08:10] By 1936, the Nazi regime was in full control of the country, and it sought to use the Olympic Games as a way of demonstrating both the fact that Nazi Germany was a functioning, successful country, and secondly that the Aryan race, the white, northern European people were superior in every way, particularly physically.

[00:08:37] I imagine you may have seen pictures or video clips from this Olympic Games, with people in the crowd doing the Nazi salute, with their right hands in the air, and people in their military uniforms.

[00:08:52] Now, at least when it comes to Hitler and the Nazis' theory of Aryan superiority, that was clearly proved wrong, when Jesse Owens, the American black athlete, won four gold medals and was the star of the competition.

[00:09:10] But the fact that the Olympics were held in the capital of Nazi Germany helped legitimise the regime, and show it to the world. 

[00:09:19] The Nazi emblem, the Swastika, was on full display, and there was implicit endorsement, or support, given to the regime by the Olympic committee.

[00:09:32] Now, it is perhaps easy to say with retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight, that these games shouldn’t have been held in Berlin, but it does raise the question of what types of countries should be allowed to hold the Olympics? 

[00:09:48] Yes, probably not countries with regimes that look like they might commit genocide, but where do you draw the line?

[00:09:56] One only needs to look at some of the countries that have been awarded the Olympics in the past 20 years or so to find examples of countries that have at least been accused of some pretty terrible crimes.

[00:10:11] Let’s move on to Mexico City, in 1968.

[00:10:15] These games actually have two important examples of politics and the games, one domestic and the other international. 

[00:10:25] Firstly, 10 days before the opening of the games there was a protest by Mexican students against the amount of money that had been spent on the games. 

[00:10:35] Instead, they believed that it should have been spent on domestic social programmes, that the money should have been spent helping Mexicans, not building expensive stadiums for an international event. 

[00:10:49] Eager to not have any disruption to the first Olympics in Mexico, and indeed the first Olympics in Latin America, the Mexican police attacked the plaza where the students were gathering, killing 200 people and injuring 1,000 more.

[00:11:06] But the most famous of the political events at these games was to come during the actual events, and on the field. 

[00:11:16] In America, the civil rights movement had been going on for almost 20 years. 

[00:11:22] African Americans had been fighting for equal rights and had been struggling against systemic racism in the U S. 

[00:11:31] The podium for the 200m race was to become a centre of political demonstration, and the scene of probably the most iconic photo in Olympic political history.

[00:11:44] An American, Tommie Smith, had won the race.

[00:11:48] An Australian, Peter Norman, came second.

[00:11:50] And another American, John Carlos, came third.

[00:11:54] Tommie Smith and John Carlos were both black, they were African Americans.

[00:12:00] As they received their medals, Tommie Smith and John Carlos lowered their heads and raised one hand, covered by a black glove and clenched into a fist.

[00:12:13] You will no doubt have seen this picture, but what you might have missed is some of the finer, more poignant details.

[00:12:22] Carlos and Smith had taken off their shoes and put on black socks to symbolise the poverty in which many black American people lived. 

[00:12:32] If you look closer at Carlos‘s neck you will see a bead necklace worn to represent the lynchings, the killings of black Americans, which were all too common at the time.

[00:12:45] The International Olympic Committee was furious

[00:12:48] This was a political statement, and The Olympics were meant to be an apolitical event, politics weren’t meant to be involved in the games. 

[00:12:59] The President of the IOC ordered for Carlos and Smith to be removed from the US Olympic team, but the team refused.

[00:13:09] Interestingly, when the President of the IOC was questioned about why this, what's called, Black Power salute, this gesture that Carlos and Smith had done was unacceptable but why the Nazi salute was acceptable back in 1936, his response was that the Nazi salute was a national salute, and therefore was acceptable.

[00:13:36] Legally, one might say he was correct, it was a national salute, but morally it would be hard to make that argument.

[00:13:45] In any case, by this time, it was clear that it was going to be incredibly hard to actually make The Olympics a politics-free zone.

[00:13:55] Moving on to our next example, the political actions didn’t come from the athletes, but against the athletes.

[00:14:05] You may be familiar with the events of 1972 in Munich.

[00:14:10] 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terror group Black September. 

[00:14:19] This led to the so-called “Munich Massacre“ which resulted in the terrorists first killing two of the Israeli athletes and then other nine being murdered later on as special forces tried to rescue them. 

[00:14:34] This was a different kind of political gesture

[00:14:37] The world was watching, and people who had not known much about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East became fully aware as a result of these tragic circumstances. 

[00:14:49] The Olympics became a live theatre for Middle-eastern Politics, and it was clear that it was an incredibly effective stage for getting one’s message across, or at least highlighting an issue that most people around the world might not have been aware of.

[00:15:06] Just four years later, in Montréal in 1976, we encountered a different kind of example.

[00:15:15] There is still the constant of The Olympic Games being used as a way to force political actions, and promote or discourage political beliefs in countries thousands of miles away from where the games are taking place.

[00:15:29] This time though, we are talking about apartheid, the racist policy of the South African government that forced segregation between the white and black population.

[00:15:41] This was a system of institutionalised racial discrimination, which legislated for superior facilities and opportunities for the minority white people and condemned the indigenous black population to inferior opportunities and therefore blatant, legalised and statutory discrimination

[00:16:04] But these games don't include the South African Olympic team.

[00:16:08] South Africa was already not allowed to participate in the Olympics games, and hadn’t been since 1964, because of its policy of separating white and black athletes.

[00:16:21] Indeed, there was a worldwide sporting ban on South Africa, meaning that other countries weren’t allowed to play against the South African national team.

[00:16:31] But, the New Zealand rugby team had recently toured South Africa, they had broken this international boycott of the country. 

[00:16:40] There was an outcry from multiple African nations, who said that New Zealand should be banned from the Olympics in Montreal for breaking the boycott.

[00:16:51] But, the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) didn’t ban New Zealand. 

[00:16:57] And as a result, 29 countries, mostly African nations, pulled out of the competition in disgust.

[00:17:06] Another notable, but unrelated political event during these games was Taiwan pulling out

[00:17:13] It had previously competed under the name The Republic of China, but was told by Canada that it couldn’t use that name, because it was too similar to The People’s Republic of China, which had been officially recognised by Canada in 1970.

[00:17:30] This is, of course, an ongoing issue in the Olympics today, and Taiwan, otherwise known as The Republic of China, normally competes under the name Chinese Taipei.

[00:17:41] Now, Montreal in 1976 was an example of countries using The Olympics to take a political stance, or to make a political point, that is completely unrelated to the country in which the games are being hosted.

[00:17:57] But, what happens when the Olympics are hosted in a country that has not been behaving particularly well?

[00:18:05] We saw that it didn’t do any harm to Nazi Germany, and in fact gave it some credibility, but half a century later, had the world learned anything from this?

[00:18:16] Well, the 1980 Olympics in Moscow suggest that things did change.

[00:18:22] One of the last attempts of the USSR to assert its military might and political will as a superpower, even though it was a failing one at the time, was to invade Afghanistan, which it did on Christmas Eve of 1979. 

[00:18:40] As a result of this, a large number of countries, including the USA, boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, they didn’t take part in the games. 

[00:18:50] Perhaps unsurprisingly, the USSR and 14 other nations, all Eastern Bloc satellite states and allies of the USSR, responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Games 4 years later, in 1984. 

[00:19:07] As the English saying goes, it was a case of tit for tat, one action taken because of another. 

[00:19:15] This leaves us neatly on to the next leg of this saga, which we will be our last one:

[00:19:23] For this one we will stay in Russia, and talk about doping in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

[00:19:31] Vladimir Putin, boosted by the popularity he was enjoying as head of a Russian state that was prosperous with such strong global demand for oil and gas, had managed to persuade the IOC that Russia should host the Winter Olympics in 2014. 

[00:19:50] Putin, himself a black belt in judo and a man whose own public image was heavily dependent on his own personal physical prowess, whether riding a horse shirtless or showing his skill and strength in judo, aimed to use the Winter Olympics in order to showcase Russia‘s strength in sporting terms. 

[00:20:14] You can, with the benefit of hindsight, see this as part of a coherent and determined plan to assert Russian power, alongside its continued military strength and increasing willingness to intervene internationally, a tendency that became evident with military interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Crimea subsequently.

[00:20:39] Much to the embarrassment of Russia, the Russian Doping Scandal resulted in an independent report, the McLaren Report, concluding in 2016 that the collusion or secret cooperation between different elements of the Russian state had been complete and thorough – in other words this was a large-scale, top-down effort to ensure that Russian athletes were able to use performance-enhancing drugs and therefore to cheat with the assistance of the state at the very highest level. 

[00:21:15] This resulted in a total of 47 Olympic medals being taken away from Russian athletes who had won them in the London 2012 Olympics and a two year ban on Russia competing in international sporting events.

[00:21:31] So, this is, of course, on one level just simple cheating, but on another level shows us how far some countries are prepared to go to win a competition.

[00:21:43] For Putin, winning a gold medal wasn’t just about the glory of being the best at a particular sport, it was about showcasing the strength of Russia, and of how the country had prospered under his leadership.

[00:21:59] And it was a little bit embarrassing when it completely backfired.

[00:22:04] So, I think that by now we have realised that politics and The Olympics go hand in hand, it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:22:15] In fact, it is much harder now than it was even 20 years ago. 

[00:22:20] Many Olympic athletes are celebrities in their own right

[00:22:25] 20 or 30 years ago they might have needed to wait until they were on the pitch, or receiving a medal, to make a gesture that symbolised their beliefs. 

[00:22:36] Now, they can share it on their own social media channels and know that it can reach tens or hundreds of millions of people in minutes, there is no longer anything between the athletes and the people who follow them.

[00:22:50] So, if we are in agreement that politics and the Olympics are inseparable, where does this leave us?

[00:22:58] What criteria should countries have to meet if they want to hold the Olympics?

[00:23:04] Should Olympic athletes have to meet certain criteria in terms of their political beliefs in order to represent their country? 

[00:23:13] How should athletes be required to behave? 

[00:23:16] Is it different during The Olympics? 

[00:23:19] Can they say one thing on their private social media accounts but have to say another thing when receiving a medal?

[00:23:26] Again, there are no easy answers to this, and I will leave you to make up your own mind.

[00:23:30] Let us give the last word on the subject to two contrasting characters: Vladimir Putin and George Orwell.

[00:23:36] At a news conference before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Putin said that the banning of Russian athletes would be a “dangerous recurrence of politics interfering in sport."

[00:23:56] Or are you inclined to agree with one of my heroes, George Orwell, who described sport as “war minus the shooting”?

[00:24:08] OK then, that is it for today's episode on politics and the Olympic games I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and when it comes to the upcoming games in Tokyo and Beijing, well, you’ll have a bit of background to it.

[00:24:27] Who knows what other political controversies might happen at these two..

[00:24:32] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:36] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:47] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, the subtitles, and the key vocabulary, then the place to go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:25:04] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:25:16] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.


[00:25:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:28] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about The Olympic Games, and specifically, politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:00:32] The Olympic Games are, supposedly, a politics-free event. 

[00:00:37] But history shows us that it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:00:42] With the upcoming summer Olympic games in Tokyo, then the Winter Olympic Games happening in 2022 in Beijing, now is an excellent time to ask ourselves the question of whether politics can, and should, ever be kept separate from the games.

[00:00:59] Before we get right into today’s episode, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:15] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials, all of our bonus episodes, so that’s more than 160 different episodes now, as well as two new ones every week, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:36] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:46] So, if that is of interest, - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:56] OK then, politics and The Olympics.

[00:02:00] Let’s start with some history.

[00:02:02] Our story starts, as many great stories do, in Ancient Greece.

[00:02:08] Specifically, in the large peninsula in southern Greece, the Peloponnese, and in the town of Olympia.

[00:02:16] When the first Olympics actually took place is not completely clear, but the first written records date back to 776 B.C, almost 2,800 years ago.

[00:02:30] It started out, so historians believe, as a festival to honour the Greek God Zeus. 

[00:02:38] Although it was obviously significantly smaller, the general idea was similar to today’s Olympic Games - a series of athletic competitions - running, jumping, wrestling, and so on.

[00:02:53] Ancient Greece at this time was a collection of different city-states, which were often at war with each other.

[00:03:00] These city-states would send their best athletes to Olympia to compete in the games. 

[00:03:08] One can imagine that, as there is now, it would be a matter of great pride if an athlete from your city-state, your athlete, won a competition.

[00:03:19] So, even from the outset, from the very first Olympic games, politics was an important part of it.

[00:03:28] There is a theory that these warring Greek city-states, these city-states that were fighting with each other, would call a temporary truce, a temporary peace, in order for athletes to travel to Olympia and take part in the games, but that is now believed to be a bit of a modern-day myth.

[00:03:49] In any case, the games became very popular. 

[00:03:53] They were held every 4 years between August 6 and September 19, and they were so important that ancient Greek historians actually used to use the four-year periods between the games as a reference point for historical events.

[00:04:11] The Ancient Olympics, as they are now called, continued for over a thousand years, and only stopped in the year AD 393. 

[00:04:22] By this time, Ancient Greece had been conquered by Rome, and the Romans were in control of these games.

[00:04:30] In 380AD, Christanity had become the only accepted religion in the Roman empire, and all other religions or belief systems were considered pagan

[00:04:43] As they were thought to be a celebration of the ancient Greek gods, the Olympics games were considered pagan, and were banned outright, they were stopped, and there were no Olympics for one and a half thousand years.

[00:04:57] That was the end of the Ancient Olympics. 

[00:05:01] Now, let’s skip forward to the 19th century, and talk about the rebirth of The Olympics, and the modern Olympic Games

[00:05:11] To give you some additional context to this, Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire had been achieved in 1830, and there was a revival of national pride in things regarded as distinctively Greek.

[00:05:28] Athletic competitions similar to The Ancient Olympics had taken place in 1859, 1870 and 1875, but they were all relatively small-scale.

[00:05:41] It wasn’t until the arrival of a French aristocrat, a man named Baron Pierre de Coubertin that the Olympic Games as we know them today were developed.

[00:05:53] This young Frenchman was obsessed with the idea of physical exercise as a way of preventing illness and keeping healthy. 

[00:06:02] He had travelled to Olympia, he knew about this ancient tradition, and proposed the idea of reviving the Olympic Games, partly with his mission of promoting physical exercise and also just as a great international competition. 

[00:06:21] He was given the authority to restart the games, and in 1894, almost exactly 1,500 years after the last Olympic Games, The International Olympic Committee, the IOC, was formed.

[00:06:37] Now, back to the question of politics and the Olympic Games.

[00:06:42] The first Olympic Games in 1896 were held in Greece, in Athens, as one might expect. 

[00:06:49] The first question the organisers had to ask themselves was “well, who is invited?”

[00:06:56] As you may know, this period of history saw a number of big military clashes within Europe; in 1870 the Franco-Prussian war had seen France heavily defeated, and there were some question marks over whether Prussia would be invited.

[00:07:14] But, to Baron de Coubertin’s credit, he did choose to include Germany in the first games. 

[00:07:22] We will soon see though that participation in the games, both countries not being allowed to participate, and countries choosing not to participate for political reasons, will be a feature throughout the history of the modern games.

[00:07:39] And indeed let’s jump to the Olympic Games in Berlin, in 1936, for our first modern example of a political Olympic Games.

[00:07:49] In the Olympic Games of 1920 and 1924, as a punishment for its actions in World War I, Germany had been excluded, it had not been allowed to participate in the games.

[00:08:03] But, in 1936 it was the host nation, the games were to take place in Germany.

[00:08:10] By 1936, the Nazi regime was in full control of the country, and it sought to use the Olympic Games as a way of demonstrating both the fact that Nazi Germany was a functioning, successful country, and secondly that the Aryan race, the white, northern European people were superior in every way, particularly physically.

[00:08:37] I imagine you may have seen pictures or video clips from this Olympic Games, with people in the crowd doing the Nazi salute, with their right hands in the air, and people in their military uniforms.

[00:08:52] Now, at least when it comes to Hitler and the Nazis' theory of Aryan superiority, that was clearly proved wrong, when Jesse Owens, the American black athlete, won four gold medals and was the star of the competition.

[00:09:10] But the fact that the Olympics were held in the capital of Nazi Germany helped legitimise the regime, and show it to the world. 

[00:09:19] The Nazi emblem, the Swastika, was on full display, and there was implicit endorsement, or support, given to the regime by the Olympic committee.

[00:09:32] Now, it is perhaps easy to say with retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight, that these games shouldn’t have been held in Berlin, but it does raise the question of what types of countries should be allowed to hold the Olympics? 

[00:09:48] Yes, probably not countries with regimes that look like they might commit genocide, but where do you draw the line?

[00:09:56] One only needs to look at some of the countries that have been awarded the Olympics in the past 20 years or so to find examples of countries that have at least been accused of some pretty terrible crimes.

[00:10:11] Let’s move on to Mexico City, in 1968.

[00:10:15] These games actually have two important examples of politics and the games, one domestic and the other international. 

[00:10:25] Firstly, 10 days before the opening of the games there was a protest by Mexican students against the amount of money that had been spent on the games. 

[00:10:35] Instead, they believed that it should have been spent on domestic social programmes, that the money should have been spent helping Mexicans, not building expensive stadiums for an international event. 

[00:10:49] Eager to not have any disruption to the first Olympics in Mexico, and indeed the first Olympics in Latin America, the Mexican police attacked the plaza where the students were gathering, killing 200 people and injuring 1,000 more.

[00:11:06] But the most famous of the political events at these games was to come during the actual events, and on the field. 

[00:11:16] In America, the civil rights movement had been going on for almost 20 years. 

[00:11:22] African Americans had been fighting for equal rights and had been struggling against systemic racism in the U S. 

[00:11:31] The podium for the 200m race was to become a centre of political demonstration, and the scene of probably the most iconic photo in Olympic political history.

[00:11:44] An American, Tommie Smith, had won the race.

[00:11:48] An Australian, Peter Norman, came second.

[00:11:50] And another American, John Carlos, came third.

[00:11:54] Tommie Smith and John Carlos were both black, they were African Americans.

[00:12:00] As they received their medals, Tommie Smith and John Carlos lowered their heads and raised one hand, covered by a black glove and clenched into a fist.

[00:12:13] You will no doubt have seen this picture, but what you might have missed is some of the finer, more poignant details.

[00:12:22] Carlos and Smith had taken off their shoes and put on black socks to symbolise the poverty in which many black American people lived. 

[00:12:32] If you look closer at Carlos‘s neck you will see a bead necklace worn to represent the lynchings, the killings of black Americans, which were all too common at the time.

[00:12:45] The International Olympic Committee was furious

[00:12:48] This was a political statement, and The Olympics were meant to be an apolitical event, politics weren’t meant to be involved in the games. 

[00:12:59] The President of the IOC ordered for Carlos and Smith to be removed from the US Olympic team, but the team refused.

[00:13:09] Interestingly, when the President of the IOC was questioned about why this, what's called, Black Power salute, this gesture that Carlos and Smith had done was unacceptable but why the Nazi salute was acceptable back in 1936, his response was that the Nazi salute was a national salute, and therefore was acceptable.

[00:13:36] Legally, one might say he was correct, it was a national salute, but morally it would be hard to make that argument.

[00:13:45] In any case, by this time, it was clear that it was going to be incredibly hard to actually make The Olympics a politics-free zone.

[00:13:55] Moving on to our next example, the political actions didn’t come from the athletes, but against the athletes.

[00:14:05] You may be familiar with the events of 1972 in Munich.

[00:14:10] 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the Palestinian terror group Black September. 

[00:14:19] This led to the so-called “Munich Massacre“ which resulted in the terrorists first killing two of the Israeli athletes and then other nine being murdered later on as special forces tried to rescue them. 

[00:14:34] This was a different kind of political gesture

[00:14:37] The world was watching, and people who had not known much about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East became fully aware as a result of these tragic circumstances. 

[00:14:49] The Olympics became a live theatre for Middle-eastern Politics, and it was clear that it was an incredibly effective stage for getting one’s message across, or at least highlighting an issue that most people around the world might not have been aware of.

[00:15:06] Just four years later, in Montréal in 1976, we encountered a different kind of example.

[00:15:15] There is still the constant of The Olympic Games being used as a way to force political actions, and promote or discourage political beliefs in countries thousands of miles away from where the games are taking place.

[00:15:29] This time though, we are talking about apartheid, the racist policy of the South African government that forced segregation between the white and black population.

[00:15:41] This was a system of institutionalised racial discrimination, which legislated for superior facilities and opportunities for the minority white people and condemned the indigenous black population to inferior opportunities and therefore blatant, legalised and statutory discrimination

[00:16:04] But these games don't include the South African Olympic team.

[00:16:08] South Africa was already not allowed to participate in the Olympics games, and hadn’t been since 1964, because of its policy of separating white and black athletes.

[00:16:21] Indeed, there was a worldwide sporting ban on South Africa, meaning that other countries weren’t allowed to play against the South African national team.

[00:16:31] But, the New Zealand rugby team had recently toured South Africa, they had broken this international boycott of the country. 

[00:16:40] There was an outcry from multiple African nations, who said that New Zealand should be banned from the Olympics in Montreal for breaking the boycott.

[00:16:51] But, the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) didn’t ban New Zealand. 

[00:16:57] And as a result, 29 countries, mostly African nations, pulled out of the competition in disgust.

[00:17:06] Another notable, but unrelated political event during these games was Taiwan pulling out

[00:17:13] It had previously competed under the name The Republic of China, but was told by Canada that it couldn’t use that name, because it was too similar to The People’s Republic of China, which had been officially recognised by Canada in 1970.

[00:17:30] This is, of course, an ongoing issue in the Olympics today, and Taiwan, otherwise known as The Republic of China, normally competes under the name Chinese Taipei.

[00:17:41] Now, Montreal in 1976 was an example of countries using The Olympics to take a political stance, or to make a political point, that is completely unrelated to the country in which the games are being hosted.

[00:17:57] But, what happens when the Olympics are hosted in a country that has not been behaving particularly well?

[00:18:05] We saw that it didn’t do any harm to Nazi Germany, and in fact gave it some credibility, but half a century later, had the world learned anything from this?

[00:18:16] Well, the 1980 Olympics in Moscow suggest that things did change.

[00:18:22] One of the last attempts of the USSR to assert its military might and political will as a superpower, even though it was a failing one at the time, was to invade Afghanistan, which it did on Christmas Eve of 1979. 

[00:18:40] As a result of this, a large number of countries, including the USA, boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, they didn’t take part in the games. 

[00:18:50] Perhaps unsurprisingly, the USSR and 14 other nations, all Eastern Bloc satellite states and allies of the USSR, responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Games 4 years later, in 1984. 

[00:19:07] As the English saying goes, it was a case of tit for tat, one action taken because of another. 

[00:19:15] This leaves us neatly on to the next leg of this saga, which we will be our last one:

[00:19:23] For this one we will stay in Russia, and talk about doping in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

[00:19:31] Vladimir Putin, boosted by the popularity he was enjoying as head of a Russian state that was prosperous with such strong global demand for oil and gas, had managed to persuade the IOC that Russia should host the Winter Olympics in 2014. 

[00:19:50] Putin, himself a black belt in judo and a man whose own public image was heavily dependent on his own personal physical prowess, whether riding a horse shirtless or showing his skill and strength in judo, aimed to use the Winter Olympics in order to showcase Russia‘s strength in sporting terms. 

[00:20:14] You can, with the benefit of hindsight, see this as part of a coherent and determined plan to assert Russian power, alongside its continued military strength and increasing willingness to intervene internationally, a tendency that became evident with military interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Crimea subsequently.

[00:20:39] Much to the embarrassment of Russia, the Russian Doping Scandal resulted in an independent report, the McLaren Report, concluding in 2016 that the collusion or secret cooperation between different elements of the Russian state had been complete and thorough – in other words this was a large-scale, top-down effort to ensure that Russian athletes were able to use performance-enhancing drugs and therefore to cheat with the assistance of the state at the very highest level. 

[00:21:15] This resulted in a total of 47 Olympic medals being taken away from Russian athletes who had won them in the London 2012 Olympics and a two year ban on Russia competing in international sporting events.

[00:21:31] So, this is, of course, on one level just simple cheating, but on another level shows us how far some countries are prepared to go to win a competition.

[00:21:43] For Putin, winning a gold medal wasn’t just about the glory of being the best at a particular sport, it was about showcasing the strength of Russia, and of how the country had prospered under his leadership.

[00:21:59] And it was a little bit embarrassing when it completely backfired.

[00:22:04] So, I think that by now we have realised that politics and The Olympics go hand in hand, it is very difficult to separate the two.

[00:22:15] In fact, it is much harder now than it was even 20 years ago. 

[00:22:20] Many Olympic athletes are celebrities in their own right

[00:22:25] 20 or 30 years ago they might have needed to wait until they were on the pitch, or receiving a medal, to make a gesture that symbolised their beliefs. 

[00:22:36] Now, they can share it on their own social media channels and know that it can reach tens or hundreds of millions of people in minutes, there is no longer anything between the athletes and the people who follow them.

[00:22:50] So, if we are in agreement that politics and the Olympics are inseparable, where does this leave us?

[00:22:58] What criteria should countries have to meet if they want to hold the Olympics?

[00:23:04] Should Olympic athletes have to meet certain criteria in terms of their political beliefs in order to represent their country? 

[00:23:13] How should athletes be required to behave? 

[00:23:16] Is it different during The Olympics? 

[00:23:19] Can they say one thing on their private social media accounts but have to say another thing when receiving a medal?

[00:23:26] Again, there are no easy answers to this, and I will leave you to make up your own mind.

[00:23:30] Let us give the last word on the subject to two contrasting characters: Vladimir Putin and George Orwell.

[00:23:36] At a news conference before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Putin said that the banning of Russian athletes would be a “dangerous recurrence of politics interfering in sport."

[00:23:56] Or are you inclined to agree with one of my heroes, George Orwell, who described sport as “war minus the shooting”?

[00:24:08] OK then, that is it for today's episode on politics and the Olympic games I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and when it comes to the upcoming games in Tokyo and Beijing, well, you’ll have a bit of background to it.

[00:24:27] Who knows what other political controversies might happen at these two..

[00:24:32] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:36] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:47] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, plus the transcripts, the subtitles, and the key vocabulary, then the place to go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:25:04] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:25:16] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com.


[00:25:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:28] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]