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Display ag ncia brasil via wikimedia commons
Aug 16 2016
by Karly Matthews

The Politics of the Olympics

By Karly Matthews - Aug 16 2016

The Olympic Games are about a world coming together, but political nuances and world events are, of course, not left out of the competition. These aspects of the Games are not all negative; in fact, some must be celebrated.

Team Refugee

Resolute Support Media via Flickr Creative Commons

The Olympics are always full of inspirational narratives from various countries; trying life stories, injuries and previous defeats are everywhere in the news once the Olympic torch is lit. This year, however, the world was inspired by a team of ten refugees, who competed as independent athletes to highlight the worldwide refugee crisis. The team has not won any medals, but the athletes’ very presence in the Games is amazing considering their current circumstances.

Russian Doping Scandal

One of the first stories to break out of Rio was what CNN reported as “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games.” Team Russia was accused and investigated in relation to “doping,” or the use of athletic performance-enhancing drugs. The Paralympics team was completely banned, but 271 athletes were cleared for the Olympic Games countered with 118 athlete bans. American swimmer Lilly King was outspoken in her belief that the entire Russian team should have faced consequences, inciting what Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova called “a war.” Despite these events, the remaining Russian team is still having success in these games; on Sunday night, artistic gymnast Aliya Mustafa won gold in the uneven bars final.

Team Puerto Rico & a Gold Medal

Tatiana via Flickr Creative Commons

Although Puerto Rico is, for all intents and purposes, a part of the United States of America, the territory has had its own team in both the Summer and Winter Olympics since 1948 and 1984 respectively. In Rio, the team won its first gold medal in women’s tennis thanks to athlete Monica Puig, pictured above. Because the team now has a bit of spotlight due to the medal win, some critics are questioning why a commonwealth of another competing country has a team, but Puerto Rico’s participation in the Games in general is not a new idea.

Anti-Israel Sentiment

Unfortunately, fellow Olympic teams did not welcome Team Israel with open arms and friendly competition. According to Western Journalism, multiple incidents have put Israeli athletes in discriminatory positions. A Lebanese coach started the Games on a sour note by not allowing the Israelis on a bus that was supposed to take both teams to the Opening Ceremony, and a Saudi Arabian athlete forfeited his judo match as to not face an Israeli athlete in the next round of competition. But, it seems that Israel is not letting the negative sentiments affect the team. In fact, judo athlete Yarden Gerbi won a bronze medal on August 9th.

American Diversity

U.S. Embassy London

The United States is one of, if not the most, diverse country in the world, and in Rio, this diversity was definitely represented. The team as a whole is almost 53 percent women with 292 athletes out of 555 being women. The women’s gymnastics team perfectly exhibits this diversity because the team includes black, white, Latina and Jewish athletes. Saber fencer pictured above, Ibtihaj Muhammad, is the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing, and swimmer Simone Manuel was the first African American women to win gold in a swimming event.

As the Games proceed until the Closing Ceremony on August 21, politics will continue to influence the events. But, that doesn’t mean most sports aren’t full of healthy competition, nor does it mean people aren’t coming together in Rio.

Lead Image Credit: Brazil Agency via Wikimedia Commons

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Karly Matthews - Temple University

Karly Matthews is a political science and journalism major with a Spanish minor at Temple University. In high school, she was editor-in-chief of her school's online newspaper, a member of the yearbook staff, a Spanish Club officer and a dancer for 12 years. In her free time, Karly drinks too much coffee and follows politics with an obsessive passion. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karlymatthews_!

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