5 Ways To Depoliticize The Olympic Games

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5 Ways To Depoliticize The Olympic Games

Olympic Games
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

According to the IOC, the Olympic Games are a competition between individual athletes, not between nations. We must first admit the absolute absurdity of this statement as applied to the current Olympic games and identify how prevalent nationalism really is in order to discuss how the Olympics can be depoliticized.

For instance, during opening ceremonies, the athletes march into the stadium with their countrymen wearing matching outfits, and one athlete is elected to have the honor of bearing the nation’s flag. Speed skaters and hockey players, lugers and ski jumpers all walk in together. Even though they compete in completely different events, the fact that they are all from the same country is enough for them to march into the stadium as one group.

The logos on their matching outfits demonstrate yet another indication of nationalism. For example, Team USA This implies that all the American athletes are in it together, so to speak, each of them striving for the glory of their country. It directly promotes the idea that the United States is itself a “team,” competing in medal count against the “teams” of every other country in the world. Team sports, such as basketball in the summer games and hockey in the winter games, is the actual, physical representation of this idea as their uniforms display their countries’ names prominently across their chests.

We will never be able to completely eradicate nationalism in the Olympics, but the dangers of a politically-fueled Olympics cannot be ignored. Therefore, nationalism should be allowed to exist but needs to be checked.

These are five ways to depoliticize the Olympic Games.

James O’Hare is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @JimboOHare, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Alter Qualifying Rules

Jordyn Wieber
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The IOC needs to change qualifying procedures that limit the number of athletes a nation can send to an event’s final round. The Olympics are supposed to be a competition between individuals, not nations. If this is true, then the top individuals should advance regardless of the country they’re from. Limiting each nation to two finalists each is a blatant hypocrisy.

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4. Emphasize Athletes, Not Nations, In Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremony
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In having the athletes walk in based on their event rather than their countries of origin, the opening ceremonies would directly focus on the individuals not only as athletes, but more specifically as swimmers, cyclists, basketball players, etc. In the current system, there is supposed to be symbolism in the nations marching side by side, a sign of friendship and equality. I believe this could be better achieved by having athletes from all different countries walking intermingled into the stadium. Essentially, it’s separate-but-equal vs. integration.

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3. Remove National Anthems From Medal Ceremonies

Medal Ceremony
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If the IOC truly desires to depoliticize the Olympics, this tradition cannot continue. By permitting the national anthems to play at the medal ceremonies, the IOC is validating the idea that athletes are competing for their country against other countries; that the ultimate prize is winning a gold medal for your country, watching your country’s flag raised, and listening to your country’s national anthem. Olympic medal ceremonies are a beautiful hypocrisy, but a hypocrisy nonetheless.

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2. Do Away With The Medal Count

Gold Medal
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing worse than the medal count in turning the Olympic Games into a political competition. It’s absurd to tally up the medals and conclude that one nation “won the Olympics.” We seriously need to stop doing it. Just watch the Games, marvel at the athletes’ physical abilities and enjoy the moments of unimaginable sportsmanship.

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1. Keep Politicians Away

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I understand that having the host nation’s leader in attendance can inspire its athletes to higher levels of performance, but it also instills political undertones to the athletic competition. Having politicians as spectators augments the feelings that athletes are competing for their nations, which is fine for the winners. But if you lose, that means you not only missed out on a medal for yourself, you also failed your country. That kind of guilt and blame is not fair to dump on one person.