The Olympics: background and London update

18 June 2012

PDF version [1570 KB]

Dr Rhonda Jolly
Social Policy Section


Part 1: Evolution
The ancient Games
The modern Games

Pierre de Coubertin
Athletic achievements
Australian achievements

Brief historical synopsis of the Games

The Olympic Games in Australia


Part 2: Administration and symbols

The International Olympic Committee

National Olympic Committees

Symbols of the Games

Part 3: Olympic issues

Race and the Games
Politics and the Games

Recent Games

Beijing 2008
London 2012

Appendix A
Snapshot: Australian athletes at the Games
Appendix B
Some Australian Olympians who entered politics
Appendix C
Summer and Winter Games venues

Executive Summary


The Olympic Games, it is said, represent ‘ideals of humanity's highest callings—a universal quest for peace, moral integrity, and an exalted mix of mind, body, and spirit that transcends culture’.[1]

Since the first modern Games were held in 1896 however, the Olympics have regularly been the subject of controversy and scandal. They have also been used as a tool to promote political agendas, racism and nationalism and, in recent times, they have been criticised for excessive commercialisation and ongoing drug controversies have tarnished their reputation. 

Some Games issues, like those concerning the amateur status of athletes, are less relevant today as the result of changes to the rules of competition. Others, such as accusations relating to the bribery of officials, remain contentious. Blatant nationalist attempts to hijack the Games, which include the Nazi propaganda Games of 1936, have been relegated to the past. But the Games continue as a tool to promote nationalism, albeit of a less virulent type. Since the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, the opening ceremonies of the Games have increasingly become massive publicity campaigns for each host city’s accomplishments and the cultural significance of host countries.

While the intensity of Cold War politics no longer influences the Games, other political issues, like human rights, endure. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has consistently argued that politics plays no part in Olympic competition and it has banned athletes for so called political protest. Yet despite the IOC’s attempt to disregard politics, it has not been able to operate in a political vacuum. Its responses to incidents which have reflected world circumstances have clearly involved a political dimension or stance, for example, its decision to continue the Games following the massacre of athletes in Munich in 1972.  

Indeed, it can be argued that the vision expounded by Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, that the Olympics should be a catalyst for cooperation between nations, has ensured that politics is inseparable from the Games and that IOC attempts to distance the Games from politics or to reconfigure political incidents in other terms are in themselves political statements.                   

At the same time, the IOC has championed an ancient tradition of an Olympic truce under which the cessation of all hostilities and warfare occurs during the period of the Games. Some have suggested that conducting the Olympics on a neutral site may go further towards this aim than the current practice of choosing host cities, as this move may produce more friendly competition and better cooperation between the nations of the world.[2] But adopting such as alternative could mean that that we lose something of the essence of the Olympics. As one commentator muses:

Every four years, as the Olympics approach, or more tragically, disappoint our ideals, they provide us with a dramatic indication of who we are. Perhaps that is the best argument for their continuation.[3]

It is not possible in this brief snapshot of the Olympics to discuss all the highlights (and lowlights) of the Olympics of the modern era. Nor is it possible to discuss all the issues that now preoccupy Olympic officials, or general or particular criticisms of the Games. The paper seeks instead to provide some insight for Australian Parliamentarians into the many dimensions of the Olympics. This in turn may illustrate the conclusion that because in some way the Olympics define humanity, they continue to capture our imagination.

The paper is organised into three broad sections: Part 1 provides an overview of the Olympics from ancient times to the present with particular reference to the Melbourne and Sydney Games in 1956 and 2000 respectively. Part 2 looks at aspects of the administration of the Games and the Olympic symbols.  Part 3 considers some of the issues which have been, and some which remain critical in the evolution of the modern Games.

In addition, the paper includes a number of appendices, the first of which provides information on, and links to Australian Olympic statistics as well as a selection of Australian Olympic performances.  Other appendices provide a list of Olympics sites with links to these as well as general information on medal tallies and athletes’ achievements at the Games. 

Part 1: Evolution

The ancient Games

Some historians argue the Olympics may have begun as early as 1200 BC as part of funeral ceremonies held for important Greek citizens, but generally it is agreed that the origins of the Games can be traced to around 776 BC when regular sporting games were held at Olympia, a site on the western part of the Peloponnese.  There are of course also myths about the origins of the Games, as Box 1 below illustrates.

It is thought that initially the only Olympic event was a 200 yard race called the ‘stade’ or stadium and that each Olympiad was named after the winner of this race.[4] In time, other events were added to the ancient Olympics program.  In 708 BC for example, wrestling and the pentathlon, consisting of running, wrestling, leaping, discus throwing and javelin hurling, were included.[5]   There were no team games and no ball games in the ancient Olympics, as the Greeks regarded them as trivial.[6]  

There is some debate about whether women were able to participate in events, or even if women were able to attend the ancient Games.[7] 

While the Games were dedicated to the Greek gods, they were fundamentally secular.[8] They were, however, so significant to Greek society that the Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad—the four years between each of these sporting events.[9] A further indication of the importance of the ancient Games was that they were held despite the occurrence of other events, including wars. Moreover, a sacred truce was instituted during the conduct of the Games. This involved the cessation of all hostilities between Greek city states and no death penalties were imposed during Olympic competition.[10]  

After the Romans conquered Greece in the second century BC, the Games began to decline in popularity and importance. When Emperor Constantine (306–337AD) formally adopted Christianity, the Games were labelled amongst pagan religious practices that were discouraged, so this decline was hastened and Emperor Theodosius I eventually officially abolished the ancient Games in 394 AD.[11]

Box 1: an Olympic myth

There are several Greek myths about how the Olympic Games began. According to one from the poet Pindar, on his fifth of the ten labours set by the oracle at Delphi, Hercules was required to clean the stables of King Augeas of Elis.  

Hercules approached Augeas and promised to complete the task for the price of one-tenth of the king's cattle. Augeas agreed and Hercules rerouted rivers to flow through the stables. Augeas did not fulfil his promise, however, and after Hercules finished his labours, he returned and sacked the city of Elis.  

He then instituted the Olympic Games in honour of his father, Zeus.[12]

The modern Games

Pierre de Coubertin

The French educator, Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937), is considered to be the founder of the modern Olympic Games. De Coubertin believed that participation in sport helped form the character of young people.[13] Consequently, he promoted the principles of what he defined as ‘Olympism’.[14] For de Coubertin, to follow these principles was to ‘adhere to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection’, to represent an elite ‘whose origins are completely egalitarian’. The Olympics’ founding father also saw ‘chivalry’ with its moral qualities as the basis of ‘a four-yearly festival of the springtime of mankind’ which glorified beauty by the ‘involvement of the philosophic arts in the Games’.[15]

In 1894, de Coubertin founded an International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act as an overall organising body for the Olympic Movement and served as its President from 1896 to 1925. 

In recognition of the ideals upon which he founded the modern Olympic Movement and his contribution to the Games, since 1964 the Pierre de Coubertin International Trophy for Fair Play has been awarded to individuals or teams who defend and promote sportsmanship in the Olympics.[16]

Athletic achievements

Since 1896, nearly 100 000 athletes have competed in the Olympics. Mostly these competitors have sought to perform to their utmost ability and in so doing they have produced outstanding feats of endurance, strength, speed, grace and coordination. Great individual international champions who have excelled at their individual sports have included runners Paavo Nurmi,[17] Emil Zatopek[18] and Carl Lewis;[19] swimmers Mark Spitz[20] and Michael Phelps[21] and gymnasts, Nadia Comaneci,[22] Larissa Latynina[23] and Aleksandr Dityatin.[24] Legendary team performances include those of the Indian field hockey team, which won Olympic gold from 1928 to 1956.[25] Inspiring achievements by Paralympians complement these feats, with the performances of Australians Louise Sauvage, Bart Bunting, Kieran Modra and Michael Milton among them.[26]         

Australian achievements

Indeed, many Australians have excelled in many sports since the first Olympics in 1896. 

Australia has participated at every Summer Olympics.[27] It has also competed in every Winter Olympics since 1936 with the exception of the 1948 Winter Games.[28] Australians have won 458 Olympic medals at both the Summer and Winter Games. One hundred and forty of these have been gold medals.[29] Many of Australia's medals have been won in swimming, and a number of Australian swimmers rank amongst that sport’s all time greatest athletes, but Australians have excelled in other sports including athletics, cycling, rowing, field hockey and equestrian.[30]

Australia’s Olympic success record in the Summer Olympics is in fact disproportionate to its population, but this record is not matched in Winter Games.[31] Harry Gordon, the official historian of the Australian Olympic Committee, considers that this is ‘to some degree an understandable consequence of all those clichés about a sunburnt country, a place of endless summers and beaches, and a very parched outback’.[32] But despite this perception, as Gordon points out, there is a rich tradition of winter sports in Australia which the Olympic Winter Institute (OWI) is determined to develop in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport towards the aim of improving Australia’s success at future Winter Games.[33]  

Brief historical synopsis of the Games  

The IOC chose Athens as the site of the first modern Olympics, which were held in 1896. Around 300 male athletes from 15 countries competed in 43 events in nine sports.[34] See Box 2 below for some interesting facts about the first modern Olympics.

Box 2: the first modern Olympics: some 1896 facts

  • The majority of contestants were Greek.
  • There were no eligibility criteria for competition.
  • Most contestants paid their own way to Greece.
  • James Connolly of the United States won the first Olympic ‘gold’ in the triple jump.[35]
  • The United States track and field team competing as unofficial representatives won nine out of 12 events.
  • There were no gold medals awarded at the first Olympics. Winners of events won silver medals and an olive wreath. Second placegetters won a bronze medal. There were no medals for third. Medals for the first three places in an event were awarded from 1908.   
  • The marathon was run to honour the legendary run by Pheidippides in 490BC.[36]
  • Athletes from different nations competed on the same teams in five sports. 


Prior to World War I, the fledgling Olympic Movement struggled. Attendances at Games, which were held every four years, were low. Events were poorly organised with athletes sometimes having to prepare their own competition space or to ‘make do’ with inadequate facilities supplied.[37] An extra Olympics (known as the inculcated Games, an event not officially recognised by the IOC) was even held to improve the profile of the Games. Ironically, however, it was controversies like those which surrounded the 1904 and 1908 marathon races that first helped to increase the Games’ popularity.[38]

The reputation of the Games grew in the period between the world wars, with the 1932 Games providing a successful respite during the Great Depression from the otherwise dire circumstances many people faced.[39] During this period, many of the now traditional Games symbols, such as the Olympic village and the Olympic oath appeared.

Spectators at the many Games between the Wars witnessed what have become legendary performances. These include the achievements of Johnny Weissmuller[40] and Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell[41] at the 1924 Games in Paris and the feats of Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936 when the African American defied the theories of white racial superiority propounded by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.[42]

An International Winter Sports Week held in Chamonix in France in 1924 was recognised retrospectively as the first Winter Olympics. Men and women from 16 countries competed in the Chamonix sports week Games and the Scandinavian countries dominated the early winter competitions. The performances of Norway’s Sonja Henie in the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid in America were also to become the stuff of Olympic legend.[43]

Games were scheduled during the First and Second World Wars but were cancelled because of these conflicts—that an Olympic truce for the duration of the Games, as had occurred during the ancient Games was not considered is no doubt an indication of the ferocity and all encompassing nature of these conflicts. The first Olympics after the 1939–1945 war were held in London. These were a ‘low key’ event reflecting the austerity of the post war period.[44]

Games from the 1950s through to the beginning of the 1990s often mirrored Cold War conflicts and world political tensions. The 1972 Summer Games in Munich, in what was then West Germany, are particularly remembered for the massacre of athletes which was linked to conflicts in the Middle East.[45] The Moscow Games in 1980 and the Los Angeles Games in 1984 are also notable for the boycotts that accompanied them.[46]

The Olympics have been the subject of much criticism in recent times as the result of various scandals and accusations of extreme commercialism (see discussion in Part 3). One of the most controversial incidents in Games’ history surrounded the Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City in America in 2002 when allegations were levelled that IOC members had earlier been bribed in the city selection vote.[47] As a result, some IOC members were forced to resign and others were severely censured.[48] In the aftermath of this controversy however, attempts were made to create greater accountability in the Games bid process. Guidelines were put in place and greater scrutiny introduced.

In 2004, the Games returned to Athens where, in contrast to their humble beginnings in 1896, they were regarded by many as the most important global sporting event. More than 10 000 athletes, both men and women, from 202 countries competed in 28 sports at the 2004 Games.[49]      

The Olympic Games in Australia

Australia has hosted the only two Olympics to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. Both the 1956 Games in Melbourne and the Sydney 2000 Games were successful events in terms of competition outcomes for Australian athletes, and as vehicles promoting Australia to the world.         

Melbourne 1956 

Nine cities, including six American cities, bid for the 1956 Games. In presenting its Games’ bid, Melbourne stressed that Australia had participated in every summer Olympics since 1896, and that despite the Olympic Movement supposedly representing ‘the five continents’, the Games had been held only in Europe and North America.  In the final ballot Melbourne won from Buenos Aires — but only by one vote.

While eventually the main venue for the Games was the Melbourne Cricket Ground, initially the Melbourne Cricket Club was reluctant to make the ground available for Olympic competition. After some persuasion, the cricket club agreed. The ground was then upgraded to accommodate 110 000 people and a new Olympic Stand erected.

Melbourne introduced a new concept for Olympic village accommodation, replacing dormitories with separate houses that were later used as public housing. The Commonwealth Government provided an interest-free loan to enable this construction.[50]

Because of Australian quarantine laws concerning horses, the equestrian events for the Melbourne Games were staged separately in Stockholm. This is the only time in the history of the modern Games that unity of time and place for competition, as stipulated in the Olympic Charter, has not been observed.[51]

The simple Opening Ceremony of the Melbourne Games was in contrast to the more elaborate events of recent times. The highlight of the ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by Ron Clarke, whose identity had been a well-kept secret.

Australian athletes had more success at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics than at any previous Games. A team of 314 athletes won 35 medals—13 gold, eight silver and 14 bronze.[52] This was the third highest medal tally only eclipsed by the Soviet Union and the United States of America.[53]

The first informal closing ceremony to be staged at an Olympics was held in Melbourne. This ceremony was not planned, but was adopted following a suggestion that the athletes should mingle together as one team at the end of the Games; competitors no longer separated by nation, war or politics. Perhaps the institution of this ceremony could be categorised as one of the greatest of the achievements of the Melbourne Games and one of the great Olympic moments which truly reflects the spirit of Olympism—people united through sport and respect for human achievements.

Because they largely represented an ‘oasis’ of cooperation during a period of intense international tension (see Part 3 for discussion), the Melbourne Games were labelled the ‘Friendly Games’. [54] The 1956 Games also left a number of legacies for Australians. They raised Australia’s and Melbourne’s international profiles. They helped legitimise the introduction of television into a conservative, anglophile Australia. Prior to the Games, many Australians considered ‘the box’ American, and therefore not quite respectable. In addition, sports construction works undertaken for the Games improved access to facilities for both amateur and professional sports participants and for sports fans. Similar legacies have been left by all Olympics since World War II—excellent sporting facilities and venues for the masses.

Ron Clark carries the Olympic Torch into the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Source: Public Record Office of Victoria.[55]

Sydney 2000

In the last few years, environmental sensitivity has become an important aspect of any Olympics. The response of Sydney to this issue helped to make the 2000 Games what IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch declared were the best Games ever.[56]

Sydney’s bid for the Games emphasised the success of the Melbourne Games in 1956 and built on the experience gained from unsuccessful bids Brisbane and Melbourne had made for the 1992 and 1996 Games. The Sydney community and media strongly supported the Games and the bid documentation emphasised the friendliness of the host city and the safety of the venues for athletes. Promotional material for the bid highlighted the intention to provide the right facilities in the context of the environmentally sensitive nature of the Games facilities.

The largest ever Australian team of 632 athletes was led into the Olympic stadium at Homebush by five-time Olympian and Australian basketball captain, Andrew Gaze. Swimming hero Ian Thorpe carried the flag at the closing ceremony.

The shores of Homebush Bay the site of the 2000 Olympics had variously been the site for the city’s abattoirs, brickworks and the Royal Australian Navy’s armaments depot. Its waterways had been previously used as landfill for chemical and household waste. Over US$80 million was spent on transforming the site to host the Games.

Five key environmental areas were targeted in planning the Homebush Bay rejuvenation—water conservation, waste avoidance and minimisation, pollution avoidance and the protection of significant natural and cultural environments. Venues were designed to be energy efficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rainwater was captured for use at locations such as the main stadium. Innovative recycling of waste was also a feature and included the use of biodegradable plates and cutlery. Electric and solar powered buggies and natural gas buses were used at the Olympic site and a new rail link was created to encourage spectators to opt to travel on public transport as part of their Games experience. The Millennium Parklands, a 420 hectares wetland, was created as part of the transformation of the site.

The illustration below provides an example of how the environmental credentials of the Sydney games were marketed.

Illustration provides an example of how the environmental credentials of the Sydney games were marketed

Source: Powerhouse Museum.[57]

The athletes’ village (the world’s largest solar ‘suburb’ in 2000), was powered with solar electricity and hot water and solar panels were incorporated in the design of the main Olympic stadium, the International Regatta Centre and the SuperDome. The Federal Government contributed $58 million to rehabilitate the area occupied by the village as well as financial support for numerous community environment projects around Olympic sites. These included $180 000 to help reduce the impact of stormwater pollution on Sydney Harbour for Olympic sailing events.[58]

The environmental credentials of the 2000 Games were not without their critics. Australian academic Sharon Beder for one considered the Games clean up had merely hidden problems.[59] Beder was convinced that a cocktail of carcinogenic toxins, asbestos, heavy metals and pesticides remained buried under the surface of the Olympic site.[60]

Australian athletes again excelled on their home soil winning 58 medals, 16 of them gold. The outstanding Australian performance was by Ian Thorpe who won three gold medals and one silver medal.[61] Other notable achievements included those of Michael Diamond, who successfully defended the gold he won in shooting at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics;[62] the four member equestrian team, consisting of Andrew Hoy, Matt Ryan, Phillip Dutton and Stewart Tinney, who won gold for the third successive time in the team three-day event;[63] the Australian women's hockey team, the Hockeyroos[64] and Cathy Freeman, whose win in the 400 metre race is seen as the most outstanding individual achievement of the Games by many Australians.[65] 

Box 3: Aboriginal tent embassy art the Sydney Games  

During the Sydney Olympics in 2000 Aboriginal people set up a Tent Embassy, similar to the one which has stood in Canberra since 1972, to protest their treatment by white Australia.

This small, but peaceful protest brought the issue of Aboriginal welfare and rights to the attention of the many international journalists visiting Sydney for the Games when authorities attempted to declare the makeshift embassy illegal. Authorities were forced to back down however, and allow the embassy to remain during the Games period.

Some critics of the Games argue this protest was futile because the Sydney Games organisers were able to manipulate Aboriginal culture in the promotion of the Games, packaging it as a celebrated component of a larger ‘Australianness’; thereby, concealing the plight of Aboriginal people.[66] One argues in fact that the Sydney Tent Embassy ‘victory’ became a counterproductive protest as ‘international visitors saw the existence of the embassy as evidence that human rights for Aboriginal people, including the right to peaceful protest, were not under threat during the Olympics’.[67]


The origins of the Paralympics are in the competitions that were first held for service veterans who had suffered spinal cord injuries during World War II. The games for these veterans were held at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England and were known as the Stoke Mandeville Games.[68]

The first Summer Paralympics was held in Rome in 1960 and the first Winter Paralympics in Toronto in 1976. However, the 1960 Rome Games were initially known as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games, the term ‘Paralympics’ was only approved by the IOC in 1984.

The number of athletes participating in the Summer Paralympics Games has increased from 400 athletes from 23 countries in Rome in 1960. In the last summer Paralympics in Beijing 3 951 athletes from 146 different countries competed and 502 competitors contested events at the winter Paralympics in Vancouver in 2010.[69] Paralympics sports include athletics, swimming, wheelchair rugby and alpine skiing.[70] Athletes from six disability groups have traditionally competed.[71]

The Paralympics Games are held in the same year as the Olympic Games. Since the 1988 Seoul Summer Paralympics and the 1992 Albertville Winter Paralympics, these Games have taken place at the same venues as the Olympics. From the 2012 bid process onwards it has become compulsory that this occurs and the city chosen to host the Olympic Games will be obliged to host the Paralympics.

The Paralympics has largely been free of controversy. However, in Sydney in 2000, the Spanish intellectually disabled basketball team was stripped of its medals after an investigation proved only two out of the 12 players suffered from a mental disability. There was suggestion also that the Spanish were not the only team to cheat in this manner.[72]

As a result, the International Paralympics Committee decided to exclude athletes with learning disabilities from the Paralympics until a reliable system to determine eligibility could be introduced.[73] Athletes with learning disabilities were still able to compete in the Special Olympics, but this event does not emphasise elite competition, principally it promotes sport as a means to improve enjoyment and challenge through participation.[74]

In 2009 the International Paralympic Committee voted to reverse the ban on competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities. An eligibility test which assesses ‘sports intelligence’ will be given to athletes who wish to compete.[75]

Australian athletes have consistently excelled at the Summer Paralympics. In Sydney in 2000, the Australian Paralympics team topped the medal count with 149 medals including 63 gold. In Beijing in 2008, the team won 79 medals and ranked fifth in the medal count.[76]

Part 2: Administration and symbols

The Summer Games are held during the summer season of the host city, usually between July and October, and competition can last for no more than 16 days.[77]

Since 1924, the International Olympic Committee has decided which sports are eligible for inclusion in Summer and Winter Olympic competitions. The Centennial Olympic Congress, held in Paris in 1994, recommended that the principal criteria for inclusion in the Olympic Program should be the universality and popularity of a sport.[78] A sport must be played in at least 75 countries on four continents before it can be considered for men's competition and in 40 countries on three continents to be eligible for the women’s competition.[79] Only sports that do not depend primarily on mechanical propulsion are eligible as Olympic sports.[80]

The Winter Games are usually held in February. Sports must be played in 25 countries on three continents to be considered eligible for the Winter Games. The term Olympiad does not apply to the Winter Games.

Prior to 1992, the Winter and Summer Games were held in the same calendar year but in 1994, after a two year interval, the schedule for the Winter Games shifted with its four-yearly cycle recommencing from that year.[81]

The IOC originally planned that the same country would host both the Summer and Winter Games of each Olympiad. However, almost immediately the Olympic Committee recognised that this would be impossible to realise in many cases. For example, there were no skiing facilities in the Netherlands, the host country for the 1928 Summer Olympics, so the Winter Olympics were held in St. Moritz in Switzerland.

The United States has hosted the most number of Summer and Winter Olympics. London is the city that will have hosted the most number of Games when the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony takes place. Russia will host the Winter Games for the first time in 2014.[82] The United States has won the most Summer Olympic medals and the Soviet Union the most Winter medals. Australia ranks tenth on the list of medal winning countries overall.[83]

The International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the governing body of the Olympic Games. It approves the sports and events to be included in the Games and also selects the host cities for the Summer and Winter Games.


While the original IOC consisted of only 14 members, currently, there are 106 members, 33 honorary members and one honour member. Members represent the IOC in their home countries, but they are not the delegates of particular countries to the IOC. There are no rules setting the size of the IOC or what countries should be represented.[84]

Membership of the IOC is limited to resident citizens of countries which have National Olympic Committees. Members must speak either French or English. New members are elected by the existing membership and originally they were elected for life, but a retirement age was imposed in 1995. Members elected in 1999 or later must now retire the year they turn 70.

Presidents of the IOC are initially elected for an eight year term and then for succeeding four year terms.[85] The current President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge of Belgium, was elected in 2001. Rogge’s term of office was renewed in 2009 but In accordance with reforms introduced in December 1999, he is not eligible to stand for re-election once his second term expires.[86]


Although the IOC oversees the Olympics, it does not actually organise individual Games. The responsibility for operating Olympic competitions lies with the international federations for each sport. For example, the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) conducts swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming events. Host cities are also responsible for security, housing of athletes and the creation and operation of sports facilities.

Members of the IOC are prohibited from accepting instructions on voting from any government or other group or individual. Prior to the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002 it was discovered that certain IOC members had violated this code and traded their votes for money and favours from potential host cities.[87] The IOC responded to these findings with a series of reforms, including restrictions on IOC members’ visits to host cities and the addition of athletes still involved in competition to the Committee.[88]

Following the election of a Games host city, an IOC Coordination Commission provides financial and other support to the city. Ninety per cent of IOC revenues are distributed to support the staging of the Olympics and to promote the development of sport.[89]

The IOC is also responsible for inviting National Olympic Committees to participate in the Games.

IOC Commissions

There are a number of specialised IOC Commissions which are established by the IOC President. These include the Athletes’ Commission, the Program Commission and the Commission for Culture and Olympic Education.

The Commission for Culture and Olympic Education advises the IOC on the promotion of culture and Olympic education and supports IOC programs and activities related to the education of young people through sport. In the lead up to the London Olympics, this committee launched the fourth Olympic sport and art contest. This contest is open to artists from any country that has a recognised national Olympic committee. Sculptures or graphic works on the theme of ‘Sport and the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect’ were to be judged in June 2012.[90]

The Athletes’ Commission is composed of active and retired athletes. It meets annually to make recommendations to the IOC and works in liaison with the Organising Committees of Olympic Games to ensure that the needs of athletes are met at each event.

The Olympic Programme Commission is responsible for reviewing and analysing the programme of sports, disciplines and events and also the number of athletes to be allowed to compete in each sport for the Summer and Winter Games.[91]

National Olympic Committees

Every country or territory competing in the Olympic Games is represented by a National Olympic Committee. There are currently 204 national Olympic committees. This is more than the 192 nation membership of the United Nations as the IOC recognises certain independent territories, commonwealths, protectorates and geographical areas.[92]

National Olympic Committees are responsible for selecting teams to participate in the Olympics, in many cases through selection trials, for providing uniforms and equipment and for transporting teams to the Games.

As potential hosts of the Games, National Olympic Committees submit the names of cities to the IOC for consideration.

Australian Olympic Committee

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is a non profit, non government organisation that comprises the member organisations which represent sports on the Summer and Winter Olympic Programs. The AOC receives funding support from sponsors and from the Australian Olympic Foundation.[93]

Direct government funding for the AOC comes from donations to the Olympic team appeal.[94] The AOC is also the beneficiary of indirect government funding support, which the Australian Government provides to the Australian Sport Commission (ASC) for elite athlete development programs.

Prior to the Montreal Games in Canada in 1976, Australian Government funding for sports had traditionally been minimal.[95] Australia’s dismal performance in Canada however, led to changed approaches to the funding for sports and the establishment in 1981 of a statutory body, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which is managed by the ASC.[96] One of the aims of the AIS has been to provide resources, services and facilities to enable Australians to pursue and achieve excellence in sport.[97] Successful Olympians such as Michael Klim, Alisa Camplin and Lauren Jackson were graduates of AIS programs.[98] In 2010–11 the Institute received over $269.5 million in Australian government funding.[99]

Athletes eligibility

To be eligible for participation in the Olympic Games, athletes need to comply with the Olympic Charter and the rules of the International Sports Federation as approved by the IOC. Competitors have to be entered into the Olympics by National Olympic Committees, but the regulatory bodies of sports set eligibility criteria for Olympic qualification.[100]

Competitors are expected to respect the spirit of fair play and non violence and to behave accordingly on the sports field. They are also expected to refrain from using prohibited substances and procedures.[101]

Wildcard provisions

There are "wildcard" entry provisions for Olympic competition for countries that do not meet the Games eligibility criteria. In addition, nations that fail to qualify in any sport are allowed to enter up to two men and two women in track and field or swimming events. However, if a nation receives a wildcard entry in another sport, that entry is subtracted from its quota. Box 4 provides an example of how wild card entries can often represents the ‘true’ Olympic spirit.

Box 4: an equatorial ‘wildcard’: Eric the eel

Eric ‘the Eel’ Moussambani, a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, was able to compete in the Sydney Olympics through a wild card entry.[102] Moussambani took up swimming only eight months before the 2000 Games. Before competing, he had not seen a 50 metre pool.

In Moussambani’s event, Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband set a world record of 47.84 seconds in the 100 metre final to win the gold medal, while Moussambani took nearly two minutes to swim the distance.[103] 


As Olympic team sports are limited to between eight and sixteen teams per sport, national teams must win, or place high in qualifying tournaments to make the final competition. The host country is automatically entitled to enter a team in every team event.

World Olympians Association

The World Olympians Association (WOA) is an independent body set up by the IOC President in 1994 following the Centennial Olympic Congress. Australian Peter Montgomery was the inaugural President of the Association.[104]

The WOA aims to promote the development of better relations between Olympic athletes in order to spread Olympic ideals and to encourage the establishment of national associations of Olympic athletes.

The mission of the World Olympians Association is to unite the nearly 100 000 Olympians around the world and involve them in the activities of the Olympic Movement.[105] There are Olympians clubs in all states in Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. In 2000, an Australian Olympians club was also formed.

Symbols of the Games

The Olympic Rings

The Olympic rings, designed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1913, are the official symbol of the Olympic Movement. The five interlacing rings of blue, yellow, black, green, and red set on a white background represent the meeting of athletes from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe at the Olympic Games.

While there is general agreement that the rings represent different continents, there is some dispute about whether any of the continents are in turn represented by one of the five ring colours. It is mostly thought that the colours of the symbol were chosen because at least one is found in the flag of every nation.[106]

The original flag depicting the rings first flew over an Olympic stadium at the 1920 Antwerp Games in Belgium. The Antwerp Flag is now on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.[107]

Olympic medals

The top three finishers in each Olympic event receive a medal and a diploma. The next five finishers receive a diploma. Each first place winner receives a ‘gold’ medal, second place a medal made of silver and third place a medal made of bronze.

Olympic gold medals were only made of gold until 1912. Currently, ‘gold’ medals are actually made of silver, which must be coated in at least six grams of pure gold. The silver used must be at least 92.5 per cent pure.

Medals carry the name of the sport contested.

All members of a winning relay team receive a medal, including those who participated only in qualifying rounds. In team sports, all the members of a winning team who have played in at least one competition game receive a medal.

The front side of medals awarded at the Summer Games feature an image of an Hellenic goddess holding a laurel wreath with the Athens Colosseum in the background. Since 1972, local Olympic organising committees have been allowed to create a design for the back of the medals. The medals given at the Winter Games are designed by the organizing committee of the Games, but must be approved by the IOC.

The IOC awards commemorative pins to each athlete who participates in the Olympic Games.[108]

Olympic mascots

Olympic mascots promote the history and culture of Olympic host cities. They help to communicate the Olympic spirit to the public, especially to children.[109] The first Olympic mascot, Waldi, the dachshund, appeared at the 1972 Games in Munich.

Lizzie the Frill neck Lizard, mascot for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.

Source: International Paralympic Committee website. [110]

The Olympic Flame and Torch 

During all ancient Olympics, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess Hera, but a modern Olympic flame was not introduced until the 1928 Amsterdam Games in the Netherlands.[111]

A Torch Relay which culminates in the lighting of the cauldron from the Olympic flame at the Opening Ceremony of each Games was introduced to symbolise a link between the ancient and modern Games. The Relay was first run at the 1936 Games when the flame was carried from Olympia to Berlin. The first relay of the Olympic Winter Games was organised for the 1952 Oslo Games.[112] Box 5 below provides additional facts about the Olympic flame and torch relay.

Box 5: Flame facts

  • The first torch relay in 1936 travelled 4800 kilometres from Greece through seven European countries to Berlin.
  • The first runner in the 1948 relay, a corporal in the Greek army, removed his military uniform before accepting the Flame in a gesture that commemorated the Olympic sacred truce observed in Ancient Greece.
  • In 1968, the Olympic torch relay traced the steps of Columbus from Spain to the New World.
  • In 1976, the Olympic flame was ‘electronically’ transmitted from Athens to Ottawa by satellite. Runners then transported the flame to Montreal. A few days after the flame was lit a rainstorm extinguished it momentarily. An official with a cigarette lighter was quickly able to rekindle the flame, but it was considered ‘impure’ and another flame was brought from Olympia to replace it.
  • The Flame was carried underwater on the Great Barrier Reef on its way to Sydney in 2000.
  • The Athens Olympic Torch Relay visited every city that had hosted the Olympic Games (34 cities in 27 countries). For the first time in history, the torch relay crossed the five continents represented in the Olympic rings.
  • The Olympic flame was transported to the summit of Mt. Qomolangma (Mt Everest) as part of the Beijing Torch relay. [113]

Part 3: Olympic issues


In the past, Olympic rules about amateurism were responsible for many controversies, some minor, some more influential; some which involved individual athletes and some which raised the ire of whole countries.

Most commentators conclude that athletes competed at the ancient Olympics principally for honour because the only prizes awarded were olive wreaths. But there is some disagreement on this point, with an opposing argument that:

… the prestige attending victory in [the ancient Games] often produced more practical benefits, such as free meals for life at public expense, gifts from the city, and exemptions from taxes and civic duties: rewards as profitable as today's endorsement contracts for Olympic victors.[114]

This ‘professional’ aspect of ancient competition was ignored however, when the Games were revived by Baron de Coubertin. One school of thought considers this was most likely because the idea of an amateur athlete, who competed for honour, not remuneration, fitted better with late nineteenth century thinking about appropriate roles for the social classes. In the nineteenth century view, only the wealthy could (and should) afford to devote their lives to the pursuit of sport. In addition, it was thought that professional athletes who sought financial gain from sport would not adhere to ideals of fair play.

Critical commentators of the idea of amateurism argue that it ‘worked for many years to the disadvantage of people who were not white men and members of well-to-do social classes in Western societies’.[115] In other words, that amateurism was a synonym for racism, sexism and class discrimination.

There was less enthusiasm for the enforcement of amateurism in sport generally, however, as social classes became less defined (at least in Western countries) and leisure time increasingly more available to all people. At the same time, the development of commercialism, which increasingly became attached to sporting events, further undermined amateurism, as did the development of state sponsored scholarships and training.[116] Combined with payments for endorsements, this meant that athletes in fact became de facto professionals as the twentieth century progressed.[117]

Amateur status was a contentious issue during the Cold War (1945–1991). State sponsored athletes from the Soviet Union and its allies who trained full time, but were not officially employed as athletes, were eligible to compete as amateurs. On the other hand, many American athletes were labelled professionals, and consequently, ineligible to compete because their acknowledged work was playing sport. The United States argued consistently that such anomalies made status eligibility requirements for Olympic competition unfair.

Recognition that this type of situation was becoming increasingly the norm led to the gradual removal of the amateur status criterion for Olympic competition. Actual reference to the word amateur was deleted from the Olympic Charter by the 1970s and international federations governing individual Olympic sports were given responsibility for determining Olympic eligibility following the 1981 IOC Congress. Since then, federations have modified their rules to allow professionals to compete in the Games.

The initial entry of ‘professionals’ into Olympic competition generated some concern and much publicity in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona when the United States’ professional basketball ‘Dream Team’, which included two of the sport’s ‘legends’, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, easily won the gold medal. But protest was short lived, and professionals now compete in almost every Olympic sport.[118] Boxing is one of the few sports where professionals are restricted or ineligible for competition.[119] This restriction is more likely because of the differing objectives of amateur and professional boxing, rather than about the issue of competitor status.[120]

Nevertheless, debate continues about amateurism in sport generally, with some believing that professionalism per se compromises an athlete’s love for sport.[121] Other points of contention include the arguments: that admitting professional athletes simply compounds the advantage richer nations have in developing athletes; that it adds to the already commercial nature of Olympic competition or that it denies young, developing athletes the chance to compete and that it deprives spectators of some inspiring victories.[122] On the other hand, if the Olympics are to remain a venue for the world’s best athletes to compete, it is difficult to see how professional athletes could be excluded from at least some sports; and inspiring performances are not solely the prerogative of amateurs.

See Box 6 below for a brief comment on the campaign waged by Avery Brundage, President of the IOC from 1952 to 1972, against professionalising the Olympics.

Box 6: Avery Brundage’s campaigns

Avery Brundage, a former American athlete, was President of the IOC from 1952 to 1972.[123] He was a tireless campaigner against professionals in Olympic competition.[124] It was only after he retired as President that the attitude of the IOC towards professionals began to change.

Brundage particularly targeted the Winter Olympics in his crusade. At the Winter Games in Grenoble in France in 1968, for example, he campaigned against what he considered was an illegitimate commercialism in sponsorship of athletes. He saw Jean Claude Killy, a French skier as the most blatant exponent of this practice as Killy allowed company trademarks to be shown in his promotional photographs in exchange for payment.[125]

Brundage intensified his campaign against commercialism in the Olympics in Sapporo in Japan in 1972, threatening to disqualify 40 skiers for being professional competitors. However, only one, Austrian Karl Schranz, who reportedly earned over (US) $50 000 annually ‘testing’ ski equipment, was eventually disqualified.[126]


Pierre de Coubertin envisioned that the Olympic Games would always remain an international gathering of amateur athletes who competed only for the love of sport. However, while this remains one of the reasons most athletes who participate in the Olympics continue to compete, sport now represents a career choice. The Games also involve large amounts of money and an intimate association with commercial enterprise, as the BBC visual comment on the relationship between Coca Cola and the Sydney Olympics shown later in this section suggests.  

For most of the twentieth century, the IOC was a small, volunteer organisation that reflected its commitment to amateurism. But following World War II and rapid development of the mass media and communications technology, the philosophy of the IOC began to change. It seized the opportunity to avail itself of these advances with the stated intention of subsidising expenses associated with hosting the Games and its other activities.

The Summer Games held in Rome in 1960 were the first to be covered on broadcast television. Many of the events were shown throughout Europe, and the American broadcast company CBS paid US$394 000 for the American broadcast rights. At the time, there was no way to broadcast across the Atlantic, so CBS took the innovative step of flying tapes of events to New York City daily.[127]

In 1960 also, the IOC sold the broadcasting rights to the Squaw Valley Winter Games in the United States to several companies. These included the European Broadcasting Union, which paid US$660 000 to broadcast the Games to Europe. Since 1960, broadcasting fees have escalated, with the American network NBC paying US$2.2 billion for the rights to broadcast the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the 2012 Summer Games in London.[128]

By the 1970s, most of the IOC’s revenue was derived from American broadcasting rights. At that time, the Committee sought to diversify marketing of the Games to attract international organisations in addition to broadcasters. To this end, in 1985, it established The Olympic Partner Program (TOP). Under this program, corporations pay millions of dollars for exclusive worldwide marketing rights to both the Summer and Winter Games over a four-year period.

BBC view: A clash between the Olympic ideal and sponsorship

BBC view: A clash between the Olympic ideal and sponsorship 

Source: BBC News.[129]

Everything appeared to be ‘sponsorable’ under the TOP program , with the 1984 Los Angeles Games even selling rights for one company to advertise itself as the Official Olympic Specimen Carrier, because it transported the urine samples of athletes to laboratories.[130]

By 1992, TOP contracts had produced revenue of more than US$120 million for the IOC. Between 2001 and 2004, TOP grew even more as it was supported by Coca-Cola, Atos Origin, John Hancock, Kodak, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Samsung, Sports Illustrated, Swatch, Visa International, and Xerox. According to the IOC 2010 marketing review, the program was worth US$866 million in the 2005–08 period.[131]

While TOP revenue continues to increase, it is yet to equal the income the IOC derives from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Games, as the table below shows. Broadcasting the Olympics in Beijing generated more than US$1739 million.

Broadcast Revenue History: Olympic Games

Source: IOC[132]

Almost 62 000 hours of dedicated coverage of the Beijing Olympics was aired globally across 220 territories. Seventy two per cent of the coverage, which was accessible to an audience of 4.2 billion viewers, was aired on free-to-air terrestrial channels. [133] In Australia, more coverage of Beijing 2008 was shown terrestrially than was shown of Sydney 2000. The highest audience was recorded during the Opening Ceremony, when an average of 4.8 million Australians tuned in. As the box below shows, Beijing was also the first truly online Games.[134]

Box 7: Internet Games

Online coverage of Beijing 2008 was made available via official broadcaster websites. Large quantities of online video content (including online HD coverage in some territories) were available for the first time in Games history. From the sample of sites for which statistics were available, there were a total of 8.2 billion pages views and over 628 million video streams

In Australia more than four million live and on-demand video streams generated over 32 million page views for 2.3 million people. [135]

The close association of the Olympic Games with commercial entities has brought criticism of the IOC. It is argued that the embrace of commercialism by the Olympic Movement has seriously compromised its principles and left it susceptible to the wishes of commercial enterprises. From this perspective one critic notes that:

Companies and products benefit from association with the Olympics, which have an aura of both virtue and excellence. The [G]ames are one of the greatest media events on earth, with television broadcasting to billions of people, a marketeer's dream. As a result, companies line up for Olympic sponsorship.[136]

The same critic argues that the IOC:

… has abdicated any moral role in relation to corporate sponsorship. Whether running shoes are made by Third World workers in horrible conditions at low pay or whether a drink is of nutritional value is of little concern to the IOC, except for possible bad publicity.[137]

Another critic adds that the numbers attending the Turin Games illustrate the influence of commercialism—2500 athletes, 10 000 sponsor’s guests, 2300 Olympic officials and 2700 NBC staff, as well as other media, volunteers and other officials. In all, a ratio of 20 to one credentialed officials to athletes.[138]

On the other hand, it can be argued that the increased wealth the IOC has achieved through sponsorship has given the Olympic Movement opportunity to expand the nature and reach of its activities for the benefit of athletes as the table on revenue contributions to NOCs in this section would suggest. For example, it has introduced Olympic Solidarity, a program to spread the ideals of the Olympic Movement throughout the world. Olympic Solidarity offers scholarships, sports education programs, and direct financial aid to various national Olympic committees, especially those in developing countries.[139]

Olympic Marketing Revenue Contributions to NOCs

Source: IOC[140]

The IOC noted in its final report on 2001–2004:

The money that the IOC receives from broadcast and marketing rights is distributed throughout the Olympic Family. It goes to aid cities hosting the Olympic Games, to assist sportsmen and women to prepare for those Games through the 202 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and to help the International Federations (IFs) promote and develop the activities for which they have responsibility. Less than 10 per cent of the revenue remains with the IOC for the costs of administration.[141]

Even critics agree that: 

It's naive and soreheaded [sic] to decry all commercialism, or the television networks that carry the Games. Sponsors help fund the athletes' training, and make it possible for the Games to be held, and NBC's love affair with the event is genuine.[142]

While IOC marketing reports corroborate the conclusion that there are more positive outcomes for athletes to be gained from encouraging sponsorship of the Games, there are examples that illustrate there is a constant need to balance the interests of athletes with those of commercial interests.[143] One illustration of this point was the changing of swimming finals times for the Beijing Olympics from evening to morning to ensure the best possible broadcasting ratings in the United States.

The European Broadcasting Union protested that European audiences will be watching swimming finals ‘in the wee hours of the morning’ and a number of leading swimmers requested re-consideration of the finals schedule noting: 

We understand that there are certain commercial advantages to the American market … But we appeal to the integrity of our sport and the integrity of the Olympic spirit to hold the Games as is, in the best interest of the athletes.[144]

To no avail, for as one commentator realistically observed:

Protest if you must about the selling out of the Olympics, but the process began long ago. The truth is that $5.7 billion [referring to the fee reportedly paid to American broadcaster NBC for the right to broadcast seven Olympics] really should buy you a little clout and a little [broadcast] time.


The use of substances to improve athletic performance is not new. Historic writings refer to competitors ingesting various potions, such as ground horse hooves or sheep testicles, to improve their performances at the ancient Olympic Games and other sporting events.[145] Athletes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century also used caffeine and strychnine to enhance their sporting prowess.[146]

The first official ban on substances to stimulate performance by a sporting organisation was introduced by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1928.[147] Drugs did not become an Olympic issue, however, until a Danish cyclist died of drug-related complications during the 1960 Olympic Games.[148] This incident prompted the IOC to set up a medical commission and to issue its first list of prohibited drugs.[149]

Since 1968, the IOC has tested athletes for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.[150] But rapid advances in medical technology in recent decades have produced a wide variety of new drugs and procedures that athletes can use to gain a performance advantage. Consequently, many athletes disregard warnings and the growing body of evidence that confirms the serious health risks associated with drug taking. Examples of this disregard can be seen in Box 8 and Box 9 below.

In February 1999, the IOC convened a World Conference on Doping in Sport. One outcome of the conference was the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which is co-funded by the IOC and member governments.[151]

Box 8: athletes and drugs: Ben Johnson  

Ben Johnson from Canada was the first well known athlete to test positive for drugs. He set a world record in winning the 100 metre dash at the Seoul Olympics but later tested positive for steroids and was banned from competition for two years.

In 1993, after Johnson again tested positive for drugs, the International Association of Athletics Federations banned him from competition for life.[152] 


In March 2003, at the Second World Conference on Doping in Sport, delegates from 80 governments, the IOC, the International Paralympics Committee, all Olympic sports, national Olympic and Paralympics committees, athletes, national anti-doping organisations and international agencies unanimously agreed to adopt the World Anti-Doping Code. The Code applies to all athletes and all those who work with them in their preparation for, or participation in Olympic competition. All National Olympic Committees and International Sports Federations are obliged to sign the World Anti-Doping Code.[153] WADA reviews and publishes a list of prohibited drugs annually.[154]

A zero tolerance anti doping policy adopted by WADA has involved an increase in the number of drugs tests conducted during the Games, as well as an extension of the associated period in which athletes can be tested for drugs. Consequently, during the course of each Games, hundreds of athletes now undergo drug testing for performance-enhancing substances. Usually, the top four place getters in each event as well as a number of other randomly-selected athletes are required to provide post-competition urine samples for testing. In some sports, blood samples are also tested. Athletes found guilty of doping in a post-event test forfeit any Olympic medals or diplomas they have won in that event.

In the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, there were seven violations of anti-doping rules, which is more than the five cases detected at all previous Winter Games. At the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, 2926 urine and 741 blood tests were conducted. This was 25 per cent more tests conducted than in Sydney. Testing found 26 violations of anti-doping rules, compared to 11 found in Sydney.[155] In Beijing, 4770 samples were taken from 3956 competitors and analysed during the Olympic period. While only nine samples were reported positive during the Games, further analyses using new methods not available during the Games found a further five positive results.[156]

One critic of WADA claims that despite the rhetoric about solving the problems of drugs in sport ‘about 85 per cent of all competing nations at the Olympics do not even bother with drug testing, thus offering plenty of places for the cheats to hide’.[157] Therefore, in this critic’s view, WADA needs to develop and oversee a more comprehensive and stringent regime and to be funded better, not only to counter existing drugs, but also to address new issues such as genetic doping.[158]

Currently, 50 per cent of WADA’s funding comes from the Olympic Movement and from governments across the five Olympics regions with the major contribution coming from the Americas and Europe.[159]

Contradictory views of performance enhancing drugs

There is, however, a view of the use of drugs in sport that contradicts accepted thinking. This view holds that athletes should be allowed to take non-harmful performance enhancing drugs, as this action fully complies with the perception of sport as a ‘celebration of the human spirit, body, and mind’.[160] The argument continues that athletes already take nutritional and dietary substances and use a variety of equipment to improve performance, so performance enhancing drugs should be similarly accepted.

Box 9: athletes and drugs: Marion Jones

Marion Jones was the first woman to win five medals in track and field events (three gold and two bronze) at a single Olympics at the Sydney Games in 2000.[161] For a number of years it was alleged she used performance enhancing drugs, but it was not until October 2007 that she admitted to using steroids from September 2000 to July 2001.

IOC president Jacques Rogge considered the doping admission by Jones was good for sport because it showed that drug cheats eventually get caught.[162]

Jones’ admission raised concern that Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who had also been suspended after missing doping tests before the 2004 Athens Olympics and who finished second in the 100 metres race, could be awarded the gold medal.[163] Australian Olympic Committee president, John Coates, did not believe Thanou should be promoted to the gold medal position and the IOC ruled in December 2009 that it would not reallocate the medal. This was reported as the first time a gold medal , that is a medal for first place, had not been awarded in an event (see the reference to first place medals in the early modern Games noted previously in this paper).

Partly as a the result of the Jones case, the IOC planned to introduce a rule whereby any athlete suspended more than six months for doping would be banned from competing in the subsequent Olympics.[164] The rule was expected to be in effect for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the ban as invalid and unenforceable.[165]

One proponent of this perspective maintains:

Ian Thorpe has enormous feet which give him an advantage that no other swimmer can get, no matter how much they exercise. Some gymnasts are more flexible, and some basketball players are seven feet tall. By allowing everyone to take performance enhancing drugs, we level the playing field. We remove the effects of genetic inequality. Far from being unfair, allowing performance enhancement promotes equality.[166]

There are countervailing arguments to this controversial view. It is difficult to draw lines between legitimate and illegitimate performance enhancement, for example. It is also unfair to those athletes who do not wish to enhance their performance with drugs, particularly younger athletes who may not be allowed to make fully informed choices about drug taking.[167]

Box 10 discusses this issue in more detail.


Box 10: performance enhancing technology—an unfair advantage?  

While the issue of technological advantage does not exactly parallel that of performance enhancing drugs, it does raise questions about whether there should be a ‘level playing field’ for competition, and where it should be drawn. At the Beijing Games for example, Australian swimmers wore a new type of swim suit which had reportedly assisted them to break world records. Past Australian Olympians, such as Murray Rose, condemned the suits arguing that they make contests ‘less even’.[168] Rose noted: ‘In my day all you had to remember was an old swimsuit and a towel and don't even worry about the goggles’.[169]

On the other hand, one swimming trainer argued the new swim suits were not responsible for the record breaking performances; these were due to superior training methods.[170]

The same argument about technological advances can be applied equally for many other sports, such as cycling and rowing, or to athletics generally. In one sport, pole vaulting, it has been noted that at the beginning of the 20th century, athletes were using wooden poles, within a decade, they were using the best nature had to offer, bamboo. In the 1960s fibreglass poles were introduced and now carbon fibre poles are used.[171]

The same motivation applies with the development of technology as with drugs–competition. People want to win, and so use drugs to enhance performance; people want to win, and so use performance enhancing technologies.

Like many other issues surrounding the Olympics this issue is complex.

One commentator notes in comparing performances in ‘equipment and technology reliant’ and ‘athlete reliant’ sports that countries which gained medals in track cycling and rowing at the 2004 summer Olympic Games, (top eight countries in order: Australia, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Russia, and Italy) and those that gained medals in track athletics (top eight countries in order: United States of America, Russia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Greece, Cuba, Jamaica, Great Britain), that the ‘developed’ world dominates the former list, while a number of ‘developing’ nations are included in the latter list. While there are physiological and cultural influences on this data, as this commentator concludes, the ability to invest in infrastructure and equipment clearly brings results.[172]

At the same time, advances in sport science have created more opportunities for disabled people to compete at the elite level and it would seem to be unfair if technologies were not made available in such circumstances to enhance the sporting experience for people with disabilities. For example, at the Paralympics in Sydney, Marlon Shirley from the United States set a new amputee world record for the 100 metre race, using a hi-tech prosthetic leg, made from aluminium and carbon-fibre.

Yet another dimension to this debate is the recent argument that prosthetic technology available to athletes with a disability in affluent countries provides an unfair advantage for these competitors.

A February 2012 discussion of this issue noted the example of South African Oscar Pistorius—the so called Blade Runner—who smashed records at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Pistorius, a double below-knee amputee who uses two carbon prosthetics, wanted to race against able-bodied athletes. However, an international jury ruled his prosthetic limbs had more spring than human legs. Although eventually Pistorius was allowed to run, questions remin about his achievements—are they ‘a result of him the athlete or him the technology, the person interacting with the technology’?[173] 


Women first competed at the Olympics which were held as part of the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900. They were only allowed to compete in two sports – tennis and croquet. The first woman gold medallist at these Olympics was British tennis player, Charlotte Cooper.

Women were admitted to the swimming competition by the 1912 Games, but it was not until 1928 that they were permitted to compete in track and field events.[174] This concession was won despite objections from Pierre de Coubertin and the Pope that it was not fitting for women to participate in such competitions. As a result of their admission to athletics events, however, the numbers of women competitors at the Games doubled.[175]

In fighting to gain entry to athletics in the Olympics women had to contend with cultural perceptions about the limitations of the female body and what was appropriate conduct for their gender. Implicit in these arguments was the idea that elite sport could only reflect masculinity; there was no room for female athletic prowess.

Notwithstanding that this, and other ideas that sport makes women less attractive and that physical exertion may affect childbearing have been discredited, some residual of the argument that women are too fragile to become athletes, surfaces occasionally. At times it is couched in accusations that female athleticism equates with so called ‘perverse’ behaviours, such as the practice of lesbianism.[176]

In 1900, around two per cent of Games competitors were women (22 athletes). In contrast, women competed in 26 of the 28 sports at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and in 135 events, or 45 per cent of all events. They represented 40.7 per cent of all participating athletes.

At the same time as women’s participation has grown, until recently bars were applied to their participation in certain sports, such as wrestling and boxing. One of the last of these bans on participation, in ski jumping competition, was enforced according to the IOC, because there were too few elite women competitors, but critics argued it stemmed from ‘outdated ideas about the abilities of female athletes’. This ban was removed April 2011, but women are still barred from competing in some winter events.[177]

Women remain underrepresented in Olympic sports organisations. It was only in 1981 that the first women were elected as members of the IOC.[178] In 1997, the first woman was elected as an IOC vice-president.[179] In an attempt to combat the problem of under representation, the IOC passed a resolution in 1996 requiring that women made up ten per cent of ‘the decision-making structures’ of all national Olympic committees by the year 2000 and 20 per cent by the year 2005.

A report on the progress of this strategy released in 2004 noted that the introduction of minimum standards of representation had had a positive impact on the proportion of women on national Olympic committees and had brought a skilled, educated and committed workforce into the Olympic Movement. Despite this situation, it was noted that more work needed to be done at ‘lower’ sports administration levels to encourage the nomination of women candidates. Additionally, it was conceded that the IOC targets do not take into account variations in society and culture which adversely affect the status of women in some countries.[180]

Race and the Games

Race and racism have played their part in a number of incidents at the Olympics. Some of the manifestations of racism have been obvious, as illustrated by the Berlin Games of 1936, while others have been more subtle.

It has been suggested for instance that Jim Thorpe, who was deprived of his medals for professionalism in 1912, would not have been so treated if he were not an American Indian (see Box 11 below).[181]

Box 11: Jim Thorpe stripped of medals

In Stockholm in Sweden in 1912, Jim Thorpe, an American Indian who won both the pentathlon and decathlon, was stripped of his medals after Olympic officials discovered that, in contravention of Games’ rules in place at the time, he had played baseball for a small salary prior to his competing in the Games.[182]

It was not until 1982 that Thorpe’s medals were returned to his family, perhaps as a result of the change in the IOC’s approach to amateurism, but possibly, also as an act of repudiation of any racist overtones that could be associated with the original decision.


The Olympics have been used also as a vehicle to protest racist attitudes and behaviours. Sometimes, as in the case of the exclusion of South Africa from the Games for its policy of apartheid, this has been with the sanction of the IOC (see discussion in Box 12). At other times, protests have taken place without IOC knowledge or approval, as illustrated by the case of the ‘Black Power’ protest of two black athletes at the Mexico Games in 1968 (see photo and comment later in this section).

Berlin 1936

Possibly the most blatant example of the use of the Olympics as a vehicle to promote racist propaganda was the 1936 Games held in Berlin in Germany.[183]

These Games were awarded to Berlin in 1931 before the Nazis came to power in Germany. However, soon after Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933, it became apparent that the new regime intended to place restrictions on competition for Jewish athletes. These led to a number of athletes and organisations arguing for a boycott of the Berlin Games on the grounds the 1936 Olympics would discriminate on the grounds of race. An organised international boycott failed to eventuate, however.[184] The Games went ahead as scheduled after the IOC declared that not only should internal politics of nations not affect Olympic competition, but that in the Berlin instance, it was convinced no discrimination had occurred against Jews in Germany.[185]

Initially, it appeared that the Games would indeed provide Hitler with an opportunity to advance his theory of the racial superiority of the Aryan race to the world when in June 1936, prior to the Olympics competition, undefeated African American professional boxer Joe Louis was knocked out by Germany's Max Schmeling. The German press proclaimed Schmeling's victory as a triumph for Germany and the Aryan race.[186]

But by the end of the Olympics Nazi claims of racial superiority had been seriously diminished by African American Jesse Owens and his African American team mates who had been dubbed the ‘Black Auxiliaries’ by the Nazi press, to imply they were not fully fledged members of the American team. Owens alone won four medals in athletics and became ‘an instant superstar’.[187] (See comment below on the sportsmanship of Carl Ludwig Long at the Berlin Olympics).

Carl Ludwig ‘Lutz’ Long: a true OlympianCarl Ludwig ‘Lutz’ Long: a true Olympian

Lutz Long was the archetypical representative of the Aryan race that Hitler wanted to promote at the Berlin Olympics.

Lutz Long was also a true sportsman.

His advice to African American Jesse Owens helped Owens qualify for the long jump in the 1936 Games. Owens eventually won  the gold medal in the event. Long came second.

Lutz died in WW II, but was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal posthumously for his sportsmanship at the Berlin Games.

Pictured above, Lutz and Owens at the 1936 Games.

Source: IOC[188]

Tokyo 1964

There is some argument that the concept of the Games in itself is racist. This view alleges that because the Games were established by European elites, they are dominated by western sports and western perspectives on sports and so disregard the indigenous sports of non-western countries.[189] A similar perspective of the Games could have been one factor in prompting President Sukarno of Indonesia in February 1962 to announce that his country would withdraw from the IOC and initiate a new world games in direct competition to the Olympics. Sukarno considered that the new games would combat old imperialistic forces that had discriminated against Asian and African nations in previous sporting competition.

More than 2000 athletes, from countries including France, Italy, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union, took part in Sukarno’s first New Emerging Forces Games (GANEFO) in Jakarta in 1963. Most of these athletes were not of Olympic calibre, however, and countries did not send official teams.[190]

Competition by nations other than Indonesia at GANEFO was not sanctioned by the IOC because of a technicality with regards to recognition of the People’s Republic of China by some international sporting bodies. So, as a result, athletes from Indonesia and North Korea, who had officially competed at GANEFO, were banned from the Tokyo Games.[191]

Box 12: apartheid and the Games

South Africa was colonized by the Dutch in the seventeenth century and later by the English. When it received independence from England in the early twentieth century, there was an uneasy power-sharing between these two groups until the Dutch (Afrikaners) gained a political majority. Apartheid was established as a means to cement Afrikaner control over the economic and social system.

While the enactment of apartheid laws in 1948 institutionalized racial separation, it was not until 1956 that laws were passed to ban inter-racial sport.

There was disagreement within the IOC about whether South Africa should be barred from Olympic competition as a result of its racial separation policy. Some IOC members defined apartheid as a political issue, which they considered was outside the parameters of Olympic consideration. Despite this disagreement, however, there was no dispute that the South African policy clearly violated the Olympic Charter regarding discrimination on the grounds of race.[192]

In 1964, the IOC barred the South African Olympic Committee from sending athletes to the Summer Games in Tokyo because that committee refused to renounce racial discrimination in sport. South Africa's apartheid policy also led to the imposition of trade sanctions and a ban on cricket and rugby tours during the 1970s and 1980s.[193]

The bar on South Africa competing at the Olympics lasted until 1992 when all apartheid laws had been repealed. 

Apartheid was also responsible for the refusal of more than 20 African nations to compete at the 1976 Games in Montreal.[194] These nations had previously demanded that New Zealand was banned from competition because a New Zealand rugby team had toured South Africa. When the IOC refused to ban New Zealand, citing as its reason that rugby was not an Olympic sport, the African nations withdrew from the Games in protest.[195]

Mexico 1968

There are a number of Games issues that have been defined from both a political and race perspective. How such incidents are defined is sometimes dependent on the circumstances in which they take place, as one incident at the Mexico Summer Olympics in 1968 reveals.

Only days before the opening of the Mexico Games a student protest demanding democratic reforms was brutally suppressed by the Mexican Government. The IOC declared that the Games would not be affected as the protest was political action and not a matter to concern the Olympic Movement.[196] These events and the IOC’s stance therefore affected an individual protest against racism made by two American athletes during the Games.

The gold and bronze medals in the 200 metre race at the Mexico Games were won by African American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Smith and Carlos, inspired by ideals articulated by the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) which strove to eliminate injustices faced by African Americans in the United States, resolved to draw attention to racial inequalities in their country.

They chose the Olympic medal presentation ceremony to do so.[197] During the playing of the American national anthem at the ceremony, both athletes bowed their heads and gave the Black Power salute.[198]

The infamous ‘Black Power’ Salute 


The infamous ‘Black Power’ Salute. Smith, Carlos and Australian Peter Norman at the Mexico Olympics





Source: Fairfax Digital[199]

The protect was met with outrage. The IOC declared that the act contravened a basic principle of the Olympics—that politics should play no role in them—and ordered the United States Olympic Committee to suspend both men from their Olympic team. It is ironic that the IOC took this stand against Smith and Carlos, given its actions in relation to institutionalised racial discrimination in South Africa. But given its declaration in response to the protest by Mexican students prior to the Games, it was probably unable to respond in any other way in this instance.

Some organisations consider that the Olympics continue to be used as a vehicle for the racist treatment of citizens in host cities and countries. Following terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. in America in September 2001, for instance, it has been argued that the organisers of the 2004 Athens Olympics unnecessarily subjected a small marginalised Islamic community in Greece to surveillance by the state of places of worship and unnecessary mass document checks and inspections on the pretext of combating potential terrorism.[200] It is difficult to evaluate the extent to which this action was racially motivated, however, given that an opposing view of the surveillance is that as a result of the 2001 attacks, security for the Olympics needed to be increased. As such, many people, regardless of their race, were subject to inconveniences to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators alike

Politics and the Games

Despite the IOC’s insistence that political considerations play no part in the Games, it can be argued that politics is actually fundamental to the Olympics. An important impetus for the ancient Games was to offset the political machinations of competing and sometimes war-like Greek city states, and in reality, it is difficult to find any modern Games that have not been in some way influenced by politics—by wars, protests, terrorist attacks or boycotts. Indeed, as one commentator notes generally: ‘Politics and sport might be uncomfortable bedfellows, but on past experience at least it seems they are inseparable’.[201]

As one Olympic commentator has noted, the intended focus of the modern Olympics was individual athletes, but the inevitable identification of those athletes with their respective states meant that the feats of individuals are inevitably associated with and subordinated to the state. So it is that politics have become integral to the conduct of the Games.[202]

What this means effectively is that world events are often played out in miniature in the Games’ arena and that the Games are used as a tool to promote or emphasise particular agendas.

1956: a tale of two invasions

Suez Crisis

In July 1956, Egypt's President Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal which had been owned and operated by a French/British company since 1869 as a neutral waterway and major maritime passage for the global oil trade. After Israel invaded Egypt in response, Britain and France intervened to restore the neutrality of the Canal. In the face of international pressure, Britain and France later withdrew and a United Nations peacekeeping force was sent to the area.[203]

As a consequence of this incident, President Nasser called for countries that initiated war to be banned from the Olympics. When the IOC did not comply with Nasser’s demands, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq withdrew from the 1956 Games in protest.[204]

Soviet invasion of Hungary

A revolt against Soviet rule in Hungary coincided with the Suez Crisis. The Soviet Union responded to demands for reform of the political system in Hungary by ruthlessly crushing the uprising.[205]

The events in Hungary led to the withdrawal from the Melbourne Olympics of the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Some nations called for the Games to be cancelled in protest at the Soviet Union’s actions, but IOC President Avery Brundage rejected these calls, arguing again the IOC public view that the Games were contests between people, not nations

 ‘Blood in the Pool’ 

'Blood in the pool' Pictured at left: Hungarian Water Polo Forward Ervin Zador, with a gashed eye, leaving the Olympic pool at the conclusion of the Hungarian/Soviet water polo semi final at the Melbourne Olympics.

The political dimension of the water polo match is illustrated by Zador’s words: ‘We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for every Hungarian. This game was the only way we could fight back[against the Soviet invasion of Hungary]

Source: Sydney Morning Herald[206]


This sentiment was not shared by the Soviet and Hungarian teams and the conflict manifest itself in the ‘blood in the pool’ incident in the semi finals of the water polo competition, where the match turned into a ‘mini’ war as illustrated by the picture shown above. Following the match, which the Hungarians won, the Soviet team had to be escorted from the venue to ensure their safety. The Hungarians eventually won the gold medal.

Most of the Hungarian team, realising they could no longer return to their homeland, defected following the competition.[207]

Cold War Games

Perhaps the most revealing example of the role international politics has played in the Olympics was illustrated by the Games rivalry between the great ideologies of the twentieth century, capitalism and communism. 

The Soviet Union expressed little interest in participating in the Olympics before WWII, arguing the Games were ‘an elitist, nationalist opiate’.[208]  Following WWII, however, and the initiation of the Cold War, ‘there were very few outlets in which the Soviet Union could try to show the benefits of its form of society: sport was one and the space race (later) became another’.[209]

While the Soviets did not compete in London in 1948, the Helsinki Games held in 1952 during the Korean War were seen as a proxy extension of the conflict being played out in Asia. So it was that the Soviets saw Helsinki as a test of the strength of communism. The United States on the other hand, intended to counter communist propaganda by excelling on the sports field in Helsinki. East faced West in every aspect of the Games, even to the extent that the athletes resided in different Olympic villages.[210] Despite the intensity of competition provoked by this clash of ideology, in the final analysis, neither side could claim a conclusive victory at Helsinki. Academic Alfred Senn considers in fact that that result ‘in itself represented a major Soviet triumph’ in its first foray into the Olympic arena.[211]

Los Angeles Stadium during the opening of the 1984 Olympics  

Los Angeles Stadium during the opening of the 1984 Olympics





Source: Wally McNamee/Corbis.[212]





While the Superpowers’ rivalry was a constant undercurrent at the Games during the Cold War, at times it was overtly manifest. For example, after losing to the Soviets in the men’s basketball final in the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Americans refused to attend the presentation ceremony and rejected their silver medals. Forty years later, the medals remain uncollected.[213] The Americans in response, in 1980 at the Lake Placid Winter Games  won what they labelled the ‘Miracle on Ice’ when their men’s ice hockey team beat the more favoured Soviet team in the lead up to the finals competition game. This victory eventually led to the Americans winning the gold medal.[214]

The spectacular opening and closing ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympics, combined with the Soviet boycott and the considerable anti-Soviet sentiment that accompanied it, represent perhaps the culmination of the American/Soviet Olympic gamesmanship. The Americans saw the Los Angeles presentation as proof of the superiority of capitalism. By introducing a ‘Hollywood’ dimension to the Games, they also set a standard for theatrical presentation of opening and closing ceremonies that other countries have since felt compelled to emulate (see the photo above of the opening ceremony of the 1984 Games).[215]

While some have suggested that the 1984 Soviet boycott was a petulant reprisal for the American boycott of the Moscow Games, it is more likely that the action was not simply ‘tit for tat’. It has been speculated for instance that the Soviets believed they could influence American politics through their actions by hampering the re-election chances of the incumbent President, Ronald Reagan.[216] Some commentators dismiss this idea, however, noting that Reagan’s campaign rhetoric compared the Olympic flame with the Statue of Liberty’s beacon as ‘emblems of American virtue brightening the dark shadow cast by the Soviet “evil empire”’.[217]

A further complication to Olympic competition as a result of the Cold War can be seen in the discussion of the how two German teams competed in a number of Games in Box 13 below.

Box 13: Cold War complications: two Germanys

Despite the insistence that there was legally one Germany at the end of WWII, effectively there were two German states – communist East Germany and the (western) Federal Republic of Germany. It was generally agreed that Germany should not be admitted to the 1948 Olympics, given that intense feelings of resentment towards the nation were still apparent. But by 1952 these had lessened and it was hoped that both Germanys would compete under the one flag. This was not to be, and only West Germany competed at the Helsinki Games. 

Both German states ‘united’ to compete at the Olympics in Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo. However, after the communists erected a wall to divide East and West Berlin in 1961, the IOC was forced to recognise two German Olympic Committees and teams from the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) competed at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

In 1976, the East Germans finished second to the Soviet Union in the medal count. In 1984 the East Germans won the most medals at the Sarajevo Winter Games.[218]

East and West Germany reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and competed as a single German team from 1992.

In recent times, there have been moves to challenge many of the performances of East German athletes on the grounds that documents and testimony obtained after the fall of the Berlin Wall revealed ‘a state-sponsored system of performance-enhancing drug use that existed in the former East Germany from 1968 to 1988’.[219]

The IOC has agreed to address any such claims on an individual basis.

China and Taiwan  

Until the late 1970s, the IOC recognised two Chinese Olympic committees—the Taipei Olympic Committee and the Chinese Olympic Committee.

This situation resulted from a civil war which lasted decades and which led to the establishment of the Communist People’s Republic of China (the PRC—also referred to as China in the following section on Beijing) in 1949. At that time, the Guomindang under Chiang Kai-shek fled from the mainland to the island of Taiwan and proclaimed Taipei the temporary capital of China.[220]

However, because the PRC regarded Taiwan as a province of China, in 1958 it withdrew from the IOC in protest against the dual recognition policy followed in the Olympics. Consequently, Taiwan participated in the following five Summer Games; the PRC did not attend.

In 1970, Canada recognised the PRC as the ‘legitimate’ China and severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This became problematic in the lead up to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 when Canada insisted that Taiwan could not compete as the Republic of China. The United States, which supported Taiwan’s legitimacy, then threatened to withdraw from the Games. Canada offered a compromise—the Taipei Olympic Committee could compete as long as it did not do so representing the Republic of China. But the Taipei Committee refused this offer and withdrew the day before the Montreal Games commenced.

The PRC reapplied for IOC membership in the 1970s. In 1979, the IOC agreed that the PRC Chinese Olympic Committee represented all China and from that time it has regarded the Taipei Olympic Committee as one of China’s local organisations.[221]

The PRC sent a team to the Lake Placid Winter Games in 1980 and in 1984 attended its first Summer Games in Los Angeles. Taiwan rejoined the Games at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles and competes under a flag, anthem and emblems approved by the IOC.[222]

Tension still exists between the PRC and Taiwan and this resurfaced in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 in relation to the Olympic torch relay. After various attempts at compromise by both nations to allow the torch to travel through the city of Taipei, the Taiwanese withdrew permission for the Olympic torch to pass through their territory.

Recent Games

Beijing 2008

As has been noted throughout this paper, controversy has been a constant companion of the Olympics. It was unlikely that Beijing would be the exception to this tradition, especially given that it appeared that the Games were but one part of a longer-term, complex strategy to promote China as a stable responsible international power, but one that nonetheless rejects what it defines as interventionism in international and domestic affairs practiced by western governments.[223]

Beijing was a close contender for the award of the 2000 Olympics but concern expressed about China’s general human rights policies as well as the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989 most likely contributed to its failure to secure the Games. In 2001, however, Beijing successfully bid for the 2008 Summer Games which were held in august 2008.

There were 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set at the 2008 Summer Games. An unprecedented 86 countries won at least one medal. China won the most gold medals, while the United States won the most medals overall (see table below). The most impressive individual performance at Beijing was that of American Michael Phelps who won the most gold medals in a single Olympics. Phelps also broke the record for most gold medals for any Olympian, winning eight swimming events. Australia’s most successful athlete was swimmer Stephanie Rice who won three gold medals and broke three world records in the pool.

Beijing: total medals top ten nations

Source: Sports Illustrated[224]

Human rights issues were emphasised in the media in the lead up to the Beijing Games. Construction of Olympics venues caused concerns with reports surfacing of forced evictions, migrant schools closed and neighbourhoods demolished. Not that Beijing was unique in evicting people to make way for the construction of Olympic venues. As was pointed out by one commentator, in the past over 1.5 million people had been evicted in other Olympic cities. It was argued however, that Beijing was one of the worst examples of the creation of Olympic venues at great personal cost to residents.[225]

Work practices associated with the construction of Olympic venues were also criticised. Claims were made that rights to adequate pay, time off and work place safety for thousands of migrant construction workers were ignored.[226] The labour advocacy group PlayFair 2008 claimed that official souvenir makers for the Games used workers as young as 12 years. The Beijing Olympics Organising Committee responded to these types of claims by revoking licences and forcing manufactures to comply with labour laws.[227]

During the Olympic torch relay protests were held in London, Paris, San Francisco and Canberra calling for China to end its occupation of Tibet and for the recognition of the human and democratic rights of Tibetans.[228]

The environmental credentials of the 2008 Games were questioned. China allocated billions of dollars to control industrial emissions, move factories out of the Beijing area, initiate projects such as reforestation to help reduce dust and sandstorms from the Gobi Desert and to improve public transport and fuel standards. In addition, one million cars were banned from Beijing streets during the Games.[229] Despite these actions, concern lingered over the potential harm to athletes which could result from Beijing’s air pollution. All fears proven unfounded, however, as the weather during most of the Games period was ‘unseasonably beautiful’.[230]

In making the decision to award the Games to Beijing IOC President Jacques Rogge considered that the Games would make a positive contribution to the improvement of human rights in China and there was a precedent for this view—the Seoul Games in 1988.[231] The IOC’s decision to award the Games to Seoul was controversial at that time, with concerns expressed about the nature of the military regime that governed South Korea [232]

It has been mostly agreed since 1988 that the Olympics played a pivotal role in bringing democracy to South Korea.[233] According to one commentator, the outcome from the Seoul Games gave sustenance to the idea that an Olympic experience can accelerate political liberalisation and create more official tolerance for dissent so an authoritarian state ‘eager for validation, wobbles under the heat of international scrutiny and criticism and then loosens its grip’.[234]

From another perspective, however, a case can be made that the situation in China cannot be directly compared to that of Seoul. One reason for this is that the Games were effectively portrayed by the Chinese Government as a symbol of national pride; therefore, making it difficult for the Chinese to criticise aspects of the Games without appearing unpatriotic.[235]

London 2012

In 2005 former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe headed a successful bid by London to stage the 2012 Games.

Despite having staged the Games twice before, London has found, like other Games cities, that once the euphoria of the winning the Olympic bid passes, it is a monumental task to deliver on commitments made. In delivering the Games London has faced two enormous tasks: fulfilling a commitment highlighted in its bid that the 2012 Games would be the first sustainable Olympics and Paralympics and silencing critics who considered its transport system could not cope with staging the Games. In addition, as its predecessors have found, regardless of best intentions, controversy in one form or another, is integral to the Games process—as has been seen in the controversy surrounding the Games logo and the continuing sponsorship of fast food company McDonald’s.


To the end of delivering a sustainable Olympics, a Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 was launched in 2007. According to a Commission report, the Commission was to be guided by the theme: ‘Towards a one planet Olympics’, a concept itself derived from the World Wildlife Fund/BioRegional idea of One Planet Living, which argues that society is living beyond the regenerative capacity of the planet.[236] Sustainability was to be incorporated into the design and construction of venues and infrastructure and in the planning of Games operations with the intention of leaving a legacy which maximises the economic, social and environmental benefits of the 2012 Games.[237]

Environmental targets set out to make the Olympic village 25 per cent more energy efficient and carbon emissions 50 per cent lower than current building regulations required; to use recycled materials to construct venues and to employ a wind turbine to supply a percentage of renewable energy to the principal Olympic site.[238]

By 2011 some of the plans for sustainability had been revised and there was some suggestion that Britain could be fined up to £175million by the IOC if it did not meet the terms of the host city contract on air pollution for the Games period. It was reported:

To meet the legally binding agreement, London may have to reduce traffic levels by more than 30% over a period of nearly a month, raising the possibility of draconian measures such as banning cars with number plates ending in odd and even numbers on alternate days.[239]

At the same time, there has been significant effort put into making the London Games sustainable. Existing venues, such as Wembley Stadium, Wimbledon and Lord’s Cricket Ground, will be used. In addition, some of the poorer parts of London have undergone transformation in creating new venues. The Olympic Park for example has been created on waste industrial land and houses the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Village. Olympic Park features 100 hectares of green infrastructure which will be available to the community after 2012.[240]

Box 14: London Mascots

The mascots for the London Olympics and Paralympics were supposedly ‘created from the last two drops of British steel used for the London 2012 Olympic Stadium’.[241]

Wenlock, the Olympics mascot, is named after the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, where it is said Baron Pierre de Coubertin gained his inspiration to found the modern Olympic movement after he attended the Much Wenlock Games.

Mandeville, the Paralympics mascot is named after the town of Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, which is the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

Two stories have been created about the mascots: Out of a Rainbow, the story of how Wenlock and Mandeville came to be and Adventures On a Rainbow, which features children from Out of a Rainbow meeting the mascots and experiencing Olympic and Paralympic sports.

London Mascots


It was clear that meeting the challenge of transport was going to be crucial to the success of the London Games and London’s transport system was a cause of concern before the city won the right to host the 2012 Games. The IOC identified transport as a major weakness in the London bid for the Games, and in August 2010, despite major infrastructure improvements, the IOC believed traffic remained London’s biggest hurdle to delivering a successful event.[242] In 2010 Olympics organisers were also not convinced that the transport system would cope with added stress from Olympics crowds.[243]

See a mid range estimation of the extra numbers of people expected to travel during the Olympics in the diagram below: 

Estimated number of extra people making trips in London during 2012

How they are expected to travel

Games spectators – 550,000 - 600,000 on the busiest days of the 2012 Games.

Public transport, walking and cycling. 80 per cent of spectators are expected to use rail (including the Tube).

Games workers – 170,000.

Public transport, walking and cycling.

Games family – 82,000 comprising11:

- 18,000 athletes for Olympic Games (6,000 for Paralympics);
- 5,000 technical officials;
- 6,000 members of Games families;
- 20,000 broadcast media;
- 8,000 journalists/ photographers; and
- 25,000 marketing partners.

Cars and buses via the ORN. They will be using a total of 5,407 vehicles (4,112 cars and 1,295 buses and coaches).

Source: London Transport Committee[244]

According to a 2011 report from the London Transport Committee, London’s public transport system carries more people than any other in the world, but parts of it are over 100 years old and the influx of millions of visitors for the Olympics is going to put an enormous strain on the system. Nevertheless, the award of the Games was the principal catalyst for increasing the capacity and accessibility of London’s transport infrastructure.

Billions of pounds have been spent on transport schemes, many of which were completed up to two years before the Games will begin. Docklands light rail stations have been improved and the capacity and frequency of services on this and other train lines has been extended. More than 100 walking and cycling tracks and paths are being upgraded and transport infrastructure along the River Thames is being improved to raise the profile of water as a transport option.[245]

London Transport Committee Access reported in the first half of 2011, however, that pressure on the system will be particularly acute at ‘hotspot’ areas in central London and as a result the whole system which operates at near capacity is likely to be under strain despite improvements. The Transport Committee concluded:

 A major failure of the transport system during the 2012 Games would have huge consequences for the way the London Games are remembered and for the long-term reputation of the capital. Reducing the risk of this happening is therefore central to the preparations.... New transport infrastructure is only part of the story. There will also be a need to reduce normal demand to free up capacity. One-third of Londoners may need to change their travel patterns.[246]

An incident in late May 2012, when hundreds of passengers were stranded for hours as the result of a breakdown on the Underground, revealed that despite best efforts, the London transport system continues to have the potential to disrupt what appears will be well-organised  and staged Games.[247]

Box 15: London logo

When it was unveiled in June 2007 the Olympics logo for London, by renowned logo designer Wolff Olins, was intended to represent a jagged 2012, but it was criticised by some as resembling a swastika. Others saw sexual imagery in the logo while animated footage of the logo reputedly triggered seizures in people suffering from epilepsy.[248]

In March 2011 the Iranian Government wrote to the IOC alleging that the logo in fact represented a hidden pro-Israeli conspiracy by concealing the word Zion, a biblical term used to denote Jerusalem. The IOC responded that it believed the logo simply represented the figure 2012 and nothing else.[249]

London logo

Financial pain

The British Labour Government in power when the Games were awarded in 2005 promised that £9.4 million of public money would be available for the Games and that there would be no cuts to this funding. However, the Games have ended up costing considerably more than was estimated in the March 2007 budget.[250] Extra funding has been sourced from the private sector, although financial downturns have meant that expected private funding in a number of cases, such as funding for the blocks of units in the Olympic Village, has not eventuated.[251]

Indeed, the financial pain was so severe that in November 2008, the Labour Party Minister for the Olympics, Tessa Jowell, remarked that ‘had we [the government] known what we know now, would we have bid for the Olympics? Almost certainly not’.[252]

As a result of the Global Financial Crisis, the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Government, which defeated Labour at the 2010 election, forced the Olympics to ‘share the pain’ of government spending cuts. It could be argued, this was a marginal gesture, given the overall cost, but nevertheless it did reduce the Games’ budget by £27 million. The chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the public sector body responsible for the delivery of new venues and infrastructure, was convinced at the time that savings would be achievable without affecting the Olympics program.[253]

There has been some criticism from the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish administrations that funding for the Olympics has only benefitted London. Plaid Cymru, the National Party of Wales, considered Wales ‘lost out on £420 million’ because of the Games. For Plaid Cymru:

It was always clear to any independent observer that an event held almost entirely in London and involving more than £6bn of public money to regenerate and revitalise inner London was not a UK-wide event.[254]

Similarly, the Scottish National Party criticised the previous Labour Government for failing to transfer more than £140 million in Olympic funding to Scotland. Some compensation was provided by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Government, but there can be no question that the main beneficiary of Games funding is London. [255] And in terms of the redevelopment of London, the bottom line is that the Games have proven to be an expensive exercise in ‘refreshing the rundown end of town’. At the same time, it can be argued that while regeneration without the Games may have been cheaper, it would have been slower and may not have taken place at all.[256]

Fast food resurfaces as an Olympic issue

London will be the ninth consecutive Olympics where McDonald’s has been the official restaurant and the only branded retailer providing food to Olympics competitors.[257] In July 2011 the fast food giant signalled its intention to build its largest-ever restaurant in the Olympic Village.[258] According to one report, the restaurant was to be three thousand square metres in size’. It would employ 470 staff to serve around 50 000 Big Macs, 30 000 milkshakes and 100 000 portions of French Fries to athletes and spectators.[259] The McDonald’s announcement reignited a long-standing debate over fast food sponsorship of the Olympic Games.

To counter claims that its food products undermine the active, healthy lifestyle message of the Games, McDonald’s launched a large-scale promotional campaign based on Happy Meal ‘activity toys’ which measure children’s movements, and vouchers to free sports sessions. The campaign reportedly aimed to help make children ‘healthier’.[260] 

 McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer, Kevin Newell, maintained that his company’s view was that children’s well-being is not just about food; it is also about education and activity. Sponsorship of the Olympic Games was therefore important to McDonald’s active campaign, as it ‘will set us up very nicely to launch a few things around children's well-being’.[261]

In response to McDonald’s marketing efforts, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges demanded measures were put in place to stop the ‘irresponsible marketing’ by major food and drink firms. The Academy particularly wanted to see a ban on companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring major sporting events such as the Olympics.[262] The Academy’s view was supported by considerable research in this area, including the findings of a recent American Academy of Pediatrics [sic] study into the effect of advertising on young people who are overweight or obese. This research found a correlation between the rate of obesity in adolescents and young people and their familiarity with fast food television advertising.[263]

Professor Paul Gately, Carnegie Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds University, countered criticism of McDonald’s, encouraging the embrace of the McDonald’s campaign. Gately, who is also a member of McDonald’s Global Advisory Council, argued the company had the potential to improve health outcomes. According to Gately:

When you look at the significant engagement and reach McDonald’s has, that provides a really great platform. It also really understands customers and how to talk to them. By providing them with the right information, McDonald’s is capable of switching kids on to physical activity and exercise, much more than what we've seen in previous public health campaigns. It can really contribute to the legacy objectives of 2012.[264]

Box 16: Australians, social media and the Games

Australian athletes warned against tweeting

In February 2012 the Director of Media and Communications at the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), Mike Tancred, warned Australian athletes against using social media during events because it could affect their performance.[265] This followed a diving event in London where Australian athletes used Twitter to evaluate their performance. One athlete reportedly wrote, ‘I’m a novice. I will stop tweeting next round. Distraction’.

Although the International Olympic Committee allows athletes to use social media to encourage more interest from young people, Tancred suggested that ‘Coaches and team managers may need to implement rules to eliminate the risk of social media derailing athlete performance at the London Olympics’. He pointed out that under the AOC team agreement, athletes, coaches and officials are personally responsible for anything written or posted on social media sites. Athletes were urged to confine their use of social media to the athletes’ village alone.

Australian athletes were banned by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association from using social media during the 2008 Delhi Commonwealth Games.[266] 

Questions about the use of social media have also been raised by an incident in which Olympic swimmers Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk posted a photo of themselves carrying firearms at a Californian gun shop on Facebook

Australian athletes warned against tweeting

Pictured left: Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk pose with firearms at a Californian gun shop


Source: ABC News[267]


Monk declared the photo ‘a bit of fun’.[268] Swimming Australia did not agree and insisted it was removed from Facebook in line with the Association’s social media guidelines.[269] Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Neil, stressed that the incident was a timely reminder to all members of the Australian Swim Team that it is an honour to swim for Australia and that the honour came with clear responsibilities in and out of the pool.[270]

Match fixing

The London Olympics will be the first Games to employ a specialist intelligence unit dedicated to investigating bribery and match fixing. The unit will comprise officials from the IOC and members of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission’s specialist betting intelligence unit. Support will be provided by the London Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Interpol.[271]

The decision to create a special unit followed allegations that a number of Olympic competitors and officials had been involved in match-fixing at previous Olympics. For example, the Ghanaian football team was accused of losing against Japan at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics regional qualifying matches involving the Kuwait handball team were replayed after it was alleged that the team was involved in match-fixing.[272] 

IOC President Jacques Rogge had previously noted that in his view, match fixing is a bigger threat to the reputation of the Olympics than performance enhancing drugs.[273] Similarly, the British Olympics Minister, Hugh Robertson, considered:  

You cannot underestimate the threat this [match fixing] poses because the moment that spectators start to feel that what they are seeing in front of them is not a true contest, that is when spectators stop turning up and the whole thing falls to pieces.[274]

Security measures

Measures intended to protect Olympic venues against terrorist attacks made headlines following an announcement by the British Ministry of Defence that a block of apartments could possibly house a surface-to-air missile battery during the Games.

Residents of an apartment block in Bow, East London, received leaflets stating that a ‘Higher Velocity Missile system’ could be placed on the apartment’s water tower as a Games security measure. The particular block was chosen because it was situated close to the Olympic Park and offers an excellent view of the surrounding area and the entire sky above the venue.[275] The plan also included other missile sites around London as well as the deployment of British soldiers to the apartment block for a period of up to two months.[276]

Security measures for Olympic Park

Security measures for Olympic Park

Pictured left: The apartment block in Bow, East London, which has been cited as a potential site to house a surface-to-air missile battery.


Source: The Guardian [277]


A number of residents voiced their concerns about the lack of consultation around the decision and the risks that the building may become a terrorist target itself. One resident, Nathan Lewis, told The Guardian newspaper, ‘I don’t think anyone here feels more secure because of this. The question is, will this make us a target…we know troops themselves are a terrorist target’.[278] Residents organised a public forum to discuss the issue but the Ministry of Defence refused to attend, claiming that should the site be approved, it would ‘conduct further engagement with residents to update them’.[279] It appears that a month before the Games begin a final decision has yet to be made on whether the missiles will be deployed.

Politics and nationalism—never far from the Games

In May 2012 the Argentinean Government released a television commercial featuring the captain of the men’s Argentine hockey team, Fernando Zylberberg, training at various landmarks in the Falkland Islands. Zylberberg was filmed exercising outside the Falkland’s most popular pub, running past the office of the island’s only newspaper, and controversially, using a British World War I memorial for step training. The commercial ended with the provocative words: ‘to compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil’.

The commercial was released on the thirtieth anniversary of the sinking of the Argentinean ship General Belgrano during the Falklands War. The release also followed an incident in which the Argentinean Ambassador to the United Kingdom questioned the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, at a human rights conference over territorial negotiations.[280] Zylberberg’s comments on the aim of the commercial further revealed an underlying political intention: ‘to get the message through that the Malvinas are Argentine’.[281]

Falkland Islands television advertisement

Falkland Islands television advertisement



Pictured left: Argentine men’s hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg trains on a British World War I memorial  

Source: The Guardian[282] 

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office objected to using the Olympics for political purposes:

The Olympics is about sport and not politics. We are also dismayed at the insensitivity and disrespect demonstrated by the film-makers in their use of a war memorial in the Falklands as a prop.[283]

Responding to the British call for an apology, the Argentineans countered that the world was safer for their use of creativity rather than bombing civilians in sovereign countries and insisted that the Falklands were Argentine territory.[284] The Argentine Government refused to take the advertisement off the air. [285] The Argentinean Olympic Committee, however, voiced its disapproval that the Olympic Games was being politicised.

Interestingly, the star of the controversial commercial was not chosen for the Argentinean team. Whether he was dropped from the team to avoid further controversy is subject to speculation.[286]


With all their controversies and scandals, boycotts and machinations, for over a century, the Olympic Games have reflected the personal and political struggles and triumphs of individuals and nations.

Some have criticised the Games as a sham, arguing they are merely ‘a symbol of greed, destructive nationalism, political posturing and corruption’ which benefits only multinational corporations.[287] Others, however, share the view of the founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, arguing that:

The Olympic Movement is one of the greatest acts of human imagination and will the world has ever known. At its heart is the desire for world peace and unity between sports, culture and education. No other movement has so powerfully captured the human heart for positive purpose.[288]

Inevitably, both views describe aspects of the Games. What some see as excessive commercialism, others consider is clever marketing that in turn supports financial initiatives for poorer nations to develop sport. While some have seen the Games as sport being used as merely a tool to fuel racism and promote political agendas, others see a further dimension—a celebration of culture and human achievement. Scandals sometimes obscure achievements, but there are also moments where the achievements transcend sport and say something about sportsmanship.

It is inevitable that the Games do elicit polarised views. And it is inevitable that the views simply serve to illustrate that the Games are a reflection of humanity—its faults and foibles, triumphs and tragedies.

This is no doubt why they endure.

Appendix A

Snapshot: Australian athletes at the Games

Winter Games

Speed skating

Steven Bradbury—was the first Australian to win a Winter Games gold medal.  His victory was achieved in the speed skating final at the Salt Lake City Olympics when a spectacular final lap crash between all other competitors in the race left him the only competitor to cross the finish line.

Steven Bradbury glides past his rivals to win the speed skating final in Salt Lake City

Summer Games


Betty Cuthbert—won four Olympic gold medals, three at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne for the 100 and 200 metre individual sprints and for the women's team 400 metre relay. In 1964 in Tokyo, Cuthbert won a fourth gold medal in the 400 metre sprint.

Marjorie Jackson (Jackson-Nelson)—known as theThe Lithgow Flash’, Jackson-Nelson won two Olympic gold medals in Helsinki in 1952 and seven Commonwealth Games gold medals for athletics.

Glynis Nunn (Nunn-Cearns)—is the only Australian to have won an Olympic multi-discipline athletics event. In the boycott-affected 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, at which the five-event pentathlon was replaced by the seven-event heptathlon, Nunn-Cearns defeated the great American Jacqueline Joyner (later Joyner-Kersee).

Shirley Strickland (de la Hunty)—won seven Olympic medals—three gold, one silver and three bronze —during a career that spanned three Olympic Games, 1948, 1952 and 1956.  She was awarded fourth place in the 200 metres at the London Olympics in 1948 but later photographic evidence revealed she should have been awarded the bronze medal and an eighth medal. Strickland’s total of medals remained a record for women's track and field until the final day of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, when Jamaica's Merlene Ottey, competing in the 400 metre relay, won an eighth.  

Herb Elliott—became the youngest athlete to break the four-minute mile in 1958. He set a world record in winning gold at the Rome Olympics.  He was nominated by the International Amateur Athletic Association as the greatest 1500 metre runner of the last 75 years.

In 1988, he was selected as one of the 200 greatest Australians for the Bicentenary celebrations.

Herb Elliot

Pictured above Herb Elliot


Simon Fairweather— became Australia’s first and only Olympic archery champion when he won gold in the men’s individual archery competition at the 2000 Sydney Games.


Clint Robinson— became Australia’s first canoe–kayak gold medallist when he defeated the Norwegian World Champion Knut Holmann to win the 1000 metres singles final in Barcelona in 1992. Robinson won a bronze medal in Atlanta four years later and a silver medal with Nathan Baggaley in Athens in 2004.  



Kathy Watt became Australia’s first female cycling gold medallist when she won the 181 kilometre road race at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Watt also won a silver medal in 3000 metre individual pursuit event.


Ryan Bayley is the only

Australian to have won two individual Olympic cycling gold medals in the sprint and the Keirin.

Bayely is pictured at left


Chantelle Newbery —was Australia’s first diving gold medallist in 80 years and the nation’s first female Olympic diving champion when she won the 10 metre platform event at the 2004 Athens Games. Team mate Loudy Tourky won the bronze. Newbery also won bronze (with Irina Lashko) in the three metre synchronised springboard event. She and her husband Robert Newbery, who won two bronze medals, were the first husband and wife combination to represent Australia at an Olympic Games.  


Andrew Hoy—after winning the three day equestrian team event with Phillip Dutton, Matt Ryan and Stuart Tinney, at the Sydney Games, Andrew Hoy became the second Australian (Dawn Fraser  was the first ) to win three gold medals at three Olympics in a row.

From sick bed to gold

Bill Roycroft

Prior to the last day of the three day equestrian event at the Rome Olympics Australia was in a good position to win the gold medal, however, it needed three of the four team members to compete well in the final round. This looked unlikely as one of the team horses had broken down, putting one member out of the competition and the fourth team member, Bill Roycroft, was in hospital after falling during the steeplechase phase of the event.

Doctors refused to authorise his release from hospital, but Roycroft insisted on competing. ‘He was 45, laced heavily with pain-killers, unable to bend, and his comrades had to dress him for the last ride. He was virtually folded onto [his horse] Our Solo, and the reins were placed in his hands. He flawlessly completed the round of 12 jumps, ensuring team gold for Australia’.

Roycroft competed in four more Olympics, winning team bronze in 1968 and 1976. He was flag bearer at the Mexico Opening Ceremony in 1968. Sadly, Bill Roycroft passed away in 2011.


Rechelle Hawkes—Australia is the only country to have won gold medal in women’s field hockey more than once—in Seoul in 1988, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.  Rechelle Hawkes was a member of all three gold medal teams. Hawkes, Dawn Fraser, Andrew Hoy and James Tomkins are the only Australians to have won gold medals at three separate Olympics.

Rechelle Hawkes on the field pictured at left


James Tomkins— competing in his sixth Olympic Games, was Australia’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony in Beijing 2008. Tomkins is a past member of the ‘Oarsome Foursome’ and a triple Olympic gold medallist. He has won nine world championships and is regarded by many as Australia’s greatest rower.


Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton—Charlton’s nickname was bestowed because he was only 14 when he first came to prominence. His status as a national idol was confirmed when he beat the Swedish world record-holder Arne Borg three times in early 1924 after their first clash at the Domain Baths in Sydney (since named after him). In 1924, the year Andrew Charlton turned 17, he also won the 1500 metres in Paris. He competed in three Olympics (1924, 1928 and 1932), and won three silver medals and a bronze. He carried the flag for Australia in the 1932 Olympics.

Shane Gould—set records in the 200 and 400 metres swimming events In the 1972 Olympics.  She won three gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal to create a new record as the most medals won by a woman at an Olympic Games.

Kieren Perkins—won the gold medal for the 1500 metre freestyle at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. He placed second in the event in the 2000 Olympic Games, finishing behind fellow Australian Grant Hackett. Perkins was the first swimmer in history to hold Olympic, World and Commonwealth titles at the same time.

Dawn Fraser

- Won eight Olympic medals and eight Commonwealth medals
- First woman to swim the 100 metre freestyle in less than a minute  
Dawn Fraser- First person to win three successive gold medals
- Banned from swimming three times in her career
- Swimming coach
- Publican
- Member for Balmain the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
- Winner 1961 Helms Award (later World Trophy)
- ABC Sportsman of the Year Award in 1962 and 1964
- Australian of the Year in 1964
- Voted Australia's greatest female athlete in 1988.
- Named Australian Female Athlete of the Century by the Sport Australian Hall of Fame
- Named World's Greatest Living Female Water Sports Champion by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.
- Recipient of the Australian Sports Medal 2000
- Recipient of The Order of the British Empire—Member (Civil) (MBE) on 1 January 1967 for services to sport
- Olympic torchbearer at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony.



Dean Lukin—won Australia’s first gold medal for weightlifting in the super heavy weight division at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Some Australian Olympic facts

Appendix B

Some Australian Olympians who entered politics:

Summer Games:

  • Sir Frank Beaurepairewon six Olympic medals at the 1908 London Games, the 1920 Antwerp Games and the 1924 Paris Games. Although none of these medals was gold, his tally of men’s swimming medals stood until surpassed by Murray Rose in 1960. In 1928, Beaurepaire became a Melbourne City Councillor and from 1940 to 1942 he was Lord Mayor of Melbourne. He was knighted in 1942 and, in the same year, elected to the Victorian Legislative Council, where he sat until 1952. He was an unsuccessful United Australia Party candidate for the Senate in 1943. He was one of the chief sponsors of the proposal to hold the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956 and was for a time chairman of the Victorian Olympic Council and of the Olympic Games Organising Committee.
  • Ric CharlesworthCharlesworth represented Australia in hockey in Munich in 1972, Montreal in 1976, Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. He was the Federal Labor Member for Perth from 1983 to 1993. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1987. From 1993 to 2000 he was National Coach of the Australian Women’s Hockey Team, the Hockeyroos. In 2002, he received an honorary Doctorate of Science at the University of Western Australia and completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in philosophy and history. In 2005, Ric was selected as Western Australia’s greatest ever hockey player and also Western Australia’s greatest ever coach.
  • Ron ClarkeClarke competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968. He was the (independent) mayor of the Gold Coast from 2004-2012. In 2012 he contested and lost the marginal seat of Broadwater as an independent. Although he did not win Olympic gold, at one stage in his career he held every world foot racing record from two miles to 20 kilometres.
  • Dawn FraserFraser was an independent member of the New South Wales Parliament from 1988 to 1991 (see appendix A for more details). She competed at the Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964) Olympics.
  • Wilfred Kent-HughesKent-Hughes represented Australia in the 400m hurdles at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. He held the seat of Kew in the Victorian Parliament from 1927 to 1949, originally as a Progressive Nationalist before he and Robert Menzies founded the Young Nationalist Organisation in 1930. He held various portfolios in the United Australia Party–Country Party ministry of 1932–35. During WWII he was a prisoner of war after having been captured at the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Following the war he returned to politics and was the Member for Chisholm from 1949 until his death in 1970. He was knighted in 1957. 

Peter WatsonWatson was a sub four-minute-mile runner who competed at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. Watson won the Western Australian state seat of Albany in 2001 for the Labor Party after it had been held by the Liberals for 27 years. He was re-elected in 2005 and 2008.

Winter Games:

  • Kirstie MarshallAerial skier Marshall competed in the Lillihammer (1994) and Nagano (1998) Winter Games. Marshall was director of the Olympic Winter Institute before being elected as the Member for Forest Hill in the Victorian Parliament in 2002.

Appendix C

Summer and Winter Games venues  

Summer Games










Athens, Greece








Paris, France








St Louis, USA








Athens, Greece








London, UK








Stockholm, Sweden








Berlin, Germany




Antwerp, Belgium








Paris, France








Amsterdam, Netherlands








Los Angeles, USA








Berlin, Germany








Tokyo, Japan & Helsinki, Finland




London, England



London, UK








Helsinki, Finland








Melbourne, Australia
Stockholm, Sweden (Equestrian)








Rome, Italy








Tokyo, Japan








Mexico City, Mexico








Munich, West Germany








Montreal, Canada








Moscow, USSR








Los Angeles, USA








Seoul, South Korea








Barcelona, Spain








Atlanta, USA








Sydney, Australia








Athens, Greece








Beijing, China








London, UK








Rio, Brazil 







*An intermediary (intercalated) round of games between the four-yearly games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not recognise these games.

Winter Games










Chamonix, France








St. Moritz, Switzerland








Lake Placid, USA








Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany








Sapporo, Japan
St. Moritz, Switzerland
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany




Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy



St. Moritz, Switzerland








Oslo, Norway








Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy








Squaw Valley, USA








Innsbruck, Austria








Grenoble, France








Sapporo, Japan








Innsbruck, Austria








Lake Placid, USA








Sarajevo, Yugoslavia








Calgary, Canada








Albertville, France








Lillehammer, Norway








Nagano, Japan








Salt Lake City, USA








Turin, Italy








Vancouver, Canada







Sochi, Russia








Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea







Source: and

[1].           Note: The Olympic Games will be referred to throughout this paper alternatively as either the Olympics or the Games. Quote is from  J Donovan, ‘Olympics 2004: despite problems, Olympics ideals endure’, RadioFreeEurope, RadioLiberty, 6 August 2004, viewed 11 January 2012,

[2].          ‘Olympic controversies’,, August 2007, viewed 11 January 2011,

[3].           D Tandon, ‘The politics of the Games and the Games as politics’, Sunday Tribune 18 November 2001, viewed 11 January 2012,

[4].           A yard is 0.9144 metres.

[5].          D Wallechinsky, The complete book of the Olympics, Arum press, 2008, p. ///

[6].                D Young, ‘From Olympia 776BC to Athens 2004: The origin and authenticity of the modern Olympic Games, in K Young and K Wamsley, (eds), Global Olympics. Historical and sociological studies of the modern Games, Elsevier JAI, Amsterdam, 2005, p. 4.

[7].          IOC Fact sheet, ‘The Olympic Games of antiquity’, update July 2009, viewed 12 January 2012,

[8].          ibid.

[9].           ‘The ancient Olympic Games’, Official Website of the Olympic Movement, 2007, viewed 11 January 2012, 

[10].         ‘A brief history of the Olympic Games’, Nostos Hellenic Information Society, 2000, viewed 11 January 2012,  The 480 BC Games for example were held during the Persian Wars and coincided with the Battle of Thermopylae. (For a description of the battle see Ancient Mesopotamia website, viewed 11 January 2012,

[11].         ‘Frequently asked questions about the Olympics’, The Ancient Olympics, a special exhibit of the Perseus Digital Library Project, Tufts University, 13 August 2004, viewed 11 January 2012,

[12].          ‘A brief history of the Olympic Games’, op. cit.

[13].              Some argue that the Olympics revival actually occurred prior to 1896. The Wenlock Olympic Society for example considers that the first modern Olympics were held in Much Wenloch in the United Kingdom in 1850 and that the founder of the modern Olympic movement was Dr William Penny Brookes. The Wenlock Games are still held each year in July. See the website, viewed 11 January 2012,  See also Young, ‘From Olympia 776BC to Athens 2004’, op. cit., pp. 8–12.

[14].              ‘Pierre de Coubertin’ at Official website of the Olympic Movement, 2007, viewed 11 January 2012,

             A number of Australians have been recognised by the International Fair Play committee which administers the award, the most recent awards were to cricketer Adam Gilchrist who was awarded a letter of congratulations in 2003 for his sporting attitude and to Herb Elliott who was awarded a trophy commemorating a sports career conducted in the spirit of fair play. See list of winners viewed 11 January 2012,

[15].         De Coubertin created a ‘Pentathlon of the Muses’, an Olympic competition for the arts as part of the Olympic revival. This has evolved into the Cultural Olympiad which the Charter of the International Olympic Committee has decreed is equally important as sport on the official Olympic Games calendar. See the (British) Department of Culture, Media and Sport, discussion of the cultural Olympiad for the London Olympics,  viewed 11 January 2012, also B Garcia, ‘Olympic arts festivals and the visual arts’, Newsletter of the National Association for the Visual Arts’ September 2000, viewed 11 January 2012,,42,38,20091013144418-SK/GARCIA_Beatriz_-_2000_-_OAF_NAVA.pdf    

[16].         Information on website for International Fair Play Committee, viewed 12 January 2012,

[17].         Nurmi, from Finland, first competed in distance running in 1920 in Antwerp. During the 1920s he won nine gold medals. See biography at Sports Museum Foundation of Finland, 5 August 1997, viewed 12 January 2012,

[18].         In Helsinki in 1952, Czechoslovakian Zatopek became the only runner to win the 5000 and 10 000 metre and marathon races in the same Olympics. See brief biography at Running Past, viewed 12 January 2012,

[19].         Lewis is one of only four Olympic athletes to win nine gold medals and one of only three to win the same individual event four times. See biography, viewed 12 January 2012,

[20].         At the 1972 Olympics, Spitz won seven gold medals and broke seven world records. See Spitz’ official website, viewed 12 January 2012,

[21].         In 2004 in Athens, Michael Phelps won eight medals in swimming (six gold and two bronze). See profile, viewed 12 January 2012,

[22].         In Montreal in 1976, Comaneci, a 14-year-old gymnast from Romania, earned the first perfect score of ten awarded in the Olympics. She eventually earned seven scores of ten and won three gold medals, Gymbrooke Sports News 2007, viewed 12 January 2012,

[23].         In 1964 in Tokyo, Ukrainian gymnast Latynina won six medals. She has won the most Olympic medals of any athlete—18 (nine were gold). See also site (viewed 12 January 2012)which provides information on the top Olympic medal winners at the Summer Games and the Winter Games,

[24].         In the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Dityatin, from the Soviet Union, won eight medals and took part in all Olympic finals. He was the first male gymnast to earn a perfect score of 10. See profile at Official Website of the Olympic Movement, viewed 12 January 2012,

[25].         See discussion at ‘India in the Olympics’, at,

[26].         See articles on these athletes all viewed 12 janaury 2012, at J. Halley, ‘Craziness pays for Aussie’, Salt Lake Tribune,  15 March 2002, (Bunting); ‘Heroic comeback by Modra’, 21 September 2004, (Modra); Michael Milton website, ‘She’s game’, Australian Women's Archives Project, 2007, (Sauvage). See other Paralympian athlete profiles at Australian Paralympic Committee website

[27].         Technically, Australia did not compete at the 1896 Olympics, as Federation did not take place until 1901. However, an athlete from the colony of Victoria, Edwin Flack, competed and won two gold medals in athletics. For a profile of Flack , viewed 12 January 2012, see D. Carr, ‘Noteworthy Flacks, Edwin Harold “Teddy” Flack Olympic champion for Australia Athens 1896’, Flack Genealogy website, Australian women first competed in the Games in 1912. Fanny Durack (Brief biography at H. King, 'Durack, Sarah (Fanny) (1889–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1981,viewed 12 January 2012, and Wilhelmina (Mina) Wylie won gold and silver respectively in swimming. See reference at M. Stell, Half the Race: A history of Australian women in sport, Angus and Robertson, North Ryde, 1991.

[28].         C Lucas, The Olympic Games 1904, viewed 12 January 2012,, accessed on 15 August 2007. Taking into consideration the technicality noted in the previous footnote, there appears to be no dispute that Australia and Greece have participated at every Summer Games. There is some disagreement about whether Switzerland and Great Britain, which have competed at all Winter Olympics, have also competed at all Summer Games. Certain sources claim that France also has competed in all Summer Olympics, but there is some dispute over the nationality of its sole competitor at the 1904 Games.

[29].         Australian Olympic Committee statistics: 140 gold, 145 silver and 173 bronze at Summer Games and five gold one silver and three bronze at Winter Games.

[30].         See Appendix A, which provides a snapshot of some Australian performances at the Summer and Winter Games.  

[31].         For example, according to Statistik Austria, although the Bahamas won only one gold and one bronze medal at the Athens Games, this amounted to 1.83 medals per 100 000 people based on a population aged between 15 and 34 and amounted to the top sporting performance at the Games. Australia, with a total of 49 medals, was second with 0.86 medals and the United States, which numerically topped the medals standings (with 37 gold, 39 silver and 29 bronze medals) was ranked 38. ‘Bahamas tops medal table per population’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 2004, viewed 12 January 2012,

[32].              H Gordon, Australia and the Olympic Games. The official history, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1994, p. 412.

[33].         See OWI website at, accessed on 3 April 2008.

[34].         These were cycling, fencing, gymnastics, lawn tennis, shooting, swimming, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling.

[35].         For a profile of Connelly see Official Website of the Olympic Movement 2007,viewed 12 January 2012,

[36].         The marathon retraces the legendary 25 mile route that had been run by Pheidippides to tell the Athenians that the invading Persians had been routed at Marathon.

[37].         In the Paris Olympics in 1900, for example, track and field events were held on an uneven, grassy field where competitors were expected to dig their own pits, discus and hammer throwers were given inadequate room to compete and ended up launching throws into the crowd, hurdles were made from telephone poles and the swimming events were held in the Seine River. ‘Paris almost put an end to the Olympic movement’, website, viewed 12 January 2012,

[38].         In 1904, Thomas Hicks of the United States, who had to be helped to the finishing line, perhaps as a result of his competing under the influence of alcohol and strychnine (then commonly used as a stimulant), won the marathon after a fellow competitor was disqualified for completing much of the race travelling in a car, ‘Olympic follies’, History House, viewed 12 January 2012,

             At the 1908 Games in London when officials omitted to fly the United States’ flag at the opening ceremony, the American flag bearer retaliated by refusing to lower the standard as his team marched past the Royal Box. This caused officials who ‘felt compelled to restore the importance of the monarchy’, to extend the marathon distance to ensure that it finished in front of the King; an action which may have denied Dorando Pietri of Italy a gold medal.  Although Pietri entered the stadium in first place in the marathon, he collapsed before reaching the finish line and had to be helped across. To the chagrin of British spectators, Pietri was disqualified and second placed American athlete John Hayes was awarded the event. Pietri’s effort made him famous, however, and increased interest in the Olympic Movement—the Queen of England presented him with a special trophy and a popular song was written in his honour. See the following websites (viewed 12 January 2012) for further information on the London Games marathon, Pietri and John Hayes, and and

[39].         The 1932 Games were staged in Los Angeles. Thirty seven countries and over 1300 athletes competed. These Games introduced a number of sporting innovations including automatic timing for races and the photo-finish camera. The first Olympic Village was erected to house competitors and the Games were held over a shortened period—16 days. This was in contrast to previous Games, such as the 1924 Paris Olympics, which were contested over a five month period. The first Olympic revenue raising took place in Los Angeles when money from the sale of a stamp was returned to the Olympic Movement, ‘World mired in depression but Games celebrations continue’, website, viewed 12 January 2012,

[40].         Weissmuller won three swimming gold medals at the Paris Games and two at the following Games in Amsterdam in 1928. He set 28 world records, one of which stood for 17 years. Some commentators rate him ahead of Mark Spitz as the greatest swimmer of all time. He was to become Hollywood’s most famous Tarzan, playing the character in films between 1932 and 1948. See brief profile, viewed 12 January 2012,

[41].         Gold medals won by British runners Abrahams in the 100 metres and Liddell in the 400 metres races at the 1924 Paris Games were later immortalised in the 1981 Academy Award winning film, Chariots of Fire. Biography of Abrahams, viewed 12 January 2012, and Liddell viewed 12 January 2012,

[42].         See biography of Jesse Owens, viewed 12 January 2012,

[43].         Henie won three successive Olympic gold medals at Saint Mortiz, Switzerland in 1928, Lake Placid, United States in 1932 and Garmesch-Partenkirchen in Germany in 1936, biography viewed 12 January 2012,

[44].         Although severely damaged in World War II, London staged a successful Olympics in 1948. Wembley Stadium which had escaped unscathed from the War was the principal venue for competition and the London Games were the first to be televised. As London was in the process of more serious rebuilding, however, no Olympic village was constructed for the Games.  Athletes were housed in schools, government buildings and military barracks. They were required to bring their own food to the competition, as London continued war time food rationing.

[45].         On 5 September 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village dormitory of the Israeli team, killing two athletes and taking nine hostages. The terrorists demanded the release of more than 200 Arab prisoners in Israel as a condition of release of the hostages. During the confrontation all the Israeli hostages were killed, as well as five terrorists and one policeman. A. Klein, Striking back: the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and Israel’s deadly response, Random House, New York, 2005.

[46].         The United States led a boycott of the Moscow Games by 55 nations to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. M Kakar, ‘Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan’, eScholarship Editions, California Digital Library, The Regents of the University of California, viewed 13 January 2012,

             Australia did not join this boycott. Although the Fraser Government was not in favour of an Australian team attending these Games, the decision to participate was left to the Australian Olympic Committee. The Committee was itself divided, and in the end, some teams and some athletes did not attend the Games in deference to the government’s wishes. John Coates, current President of the Australian Olympic Committee, argues that the decision not to follow the American boycott helped secure the 2000 Olympics for Sydney, as the Australian Olympic Committee was seen as truly independent of government. P Mulvey, ‘Coates honoured for leading Olympic renaissance’, AAP Australian General News, 12 June 2006. See also L Forrest, Boycott: Australia’s controversial road to the 1980 Moscow Olympics, ABC Books, Sydney, 2008.

             Sixteen countries boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics with the Soviet Union citing expected excessive commercialism and the lack of security as reasons. America denounced this as a ‘blatant political act’ and many commentators labelled the withdrawal a payback for America’s Moscow boycott. BBC, On this Day, 8 May, ‘1984: Moscow pulls out of US Olympics’, viewed 13 January 2012,    See also B Shaikin, Sport and politics: the Olympics and the Los Angeles Games, Praeger, New York, 1988.          

[47].         A special selection process had been introduced to select the Games’ city for the 1952 Games. But it was not until allegations of undue influence were exerted on Olympic officials by some cities for selection that an official procedure was set out in the Olympic Charter in relation to the election of a host city. Olympic Charter, Chapter 5, Rule 34 and its by-law, Olympic Charter, viewed 13 January 2012,              

[48].         One of these was Australian IOC member Phil Coles, who also resigned from his position with the Australian Olympic Committee. Coles was cited by the IOC for carelessly handling lavish perks. For a detailed discussion on the scandal see J Calvert, ‘How to buy the Olympics’, The Observer, 6 January 2002, viewed 13 January 2012,,,676494,00.html             

[49].         A Guttman, The Olympics: a history of the modern Games, second edition, University of Illinois Press, 2002.

[50].         B Howard, 15 days in ’56: the first Australian Olympics, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1995 provides further details.

[51].         ‘Melbourne/Stockholm 1956’, Official Website of the Olympic Movement, 2007, viewed 13 January 2012,

[52].             Some of the outstanding performances at these Games were those of Betty Cuthbert, Lorraine Crapp, Dawn Fraser and David Thiele. See links to biographies of Fraser and Cuthbert at Appendix A and link to Crapp’s biography at Australian Olympic Committee website, viewed 13 January 2012,

[53].         ‘1956 Melbourne Olympics’ State Library of Victoria exhibition site, viewed 13 January 2012,

[54].         These were particularly obvious prior to the Olympics when the Suez Canal crisis erupted in October, the Soviet Union quelled an uprising in Hungary and the People’s Republic of China withdrew from the Games because Taiwan had been allowed to compete.

[55].         Public Record Office of Victoria, 1956 Melbourne Olympics, image A58, Ron Clarke carrying Olympic Torch on lap of Melbourne Cricket Ground, 22 November 1956.

[56].         ‘Best Olympic Games ever: Samaranch’, at, 1 October 2000,

[57].         See Powerhouse Museum website, viewed 13 January 2012,

[58].         Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Welcome to the Green Games, 2000.

[59].         Sharon Beder was visiting professor in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales.

[60].         S Beder, ‘Let the spin begin’, Harper’s Magazine, May 2000,


[61].         See biography of Ian Thorpe at ICMI Speakers website,

[62].          See biography at Australian Olympic Committee website, viewed 13 January 2012,

[63].         See website dedicated to the equestrian team win, viewed 13 January 2012,


[64].         Hockeyroos fact file, viewed 13 January 2012, is at       

[65].         See biography at Australian Olympic Committee website, viewed 13 January 2012,


[66].         S Orkiror, The 2000 Olympics: what happened to Aboriginal plight, 25 May 2005, and G Cashman and R Cashman, Red, black and gold: Sydney aboriginal people and the Olympics, Centre for Olympic Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2000.

[67].         H Lenskyj, The best Olympics ever, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2002, p. 85.

[68].              The Games were the brainchild of Dr Ludwig Guttmann who considered sport was an important part of the rehabilitation process for veterans.

[69].      International Paralympics Committee, information on past Games, viewed 13 January 2012,

[70].         International Paralympic Committee website, op. cit.

[71].         Ibid.

[72].         G Tremlett, ‘The cheats’, The Guardian, 16 September 2004, viewed 13 January 2012,           

[73].         ‘Paralympics: mentally disabled barred from Games”, New York Times, 4 February 2003, viewed 13 January 2012,

[74].         The last Special Olympics were held in Athens 25 June to 4 July 2011. People over eight years old with a recognised intellectual disability are eligible to compete in the Special Olympics.

[75].      ‘Intellectual ban ends, BBC sport, 21 November 2009, viewed 13 January 2012,         

[76].         See the Australian Paralympics website for medal tables of past Summer Paralympics, viewed 13 January 2012,

[77].         For a detailed discussion of ‘The modern Olympic phenomenon’, see Chapter 4 in K Toohey and A Veal, The Olympic Games: a social science perspective’, (second edition), CABI, Oxfordshire, 2007.

[78].         ‘The Olympic Program’, Official website of the Beijing Olympics, viewed 13 January 2012,

[79].         Ibid.

[80].         This means sports such as auto and motorcycle racing are excluded.

[81].         ‘1924 Olympics Chamonix’,, viewed 13 January 2012,

[82].         Olympic Games cities, viewed 13 January 2012,            

[83].         The United States has won 2307 Summer medals (254 Winter) medals United States Olympic Committee website, viewed 13 January 2012, and the Soviet Union 1234 Winter medals. Note: The Winter Olympics figure includes medals won by the Soviet Union, the United Team and Russia. See table at, viewed 13 January 2012,    

[84].         List of IOC members, viewed 13 January 2012,

[85].         IOC Presidents: Demetrius Vikelas, Greece, 1894–1896; Pierre de Coubertin, France, 1896–1925; Henri de Baillet-Latour, Belgium, 1925–1942; J. Sigfrid Edstrom, Sweden, 1946–1952; Avery Brundage, United States of America, 1952–1972; Lord Killanin, Ireland, 1972–1980; Juan Antonio Samaranch, Spain, 1980–2001; Jacques Rogge, Belgium, 2001–present.

[86].         Structure of the Olympic Movement document, viewed 13 January 2012,

[87].              The Salt Lake City Games were noteworthy also for a number of other reasons. These include the added security that accompanied them. This additional security was inevitable, given that the Games opened only five months after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon in September 2001. The American decision to include a flag that had flown at Ground Zero in the Games opening ceremony was also criticised by some as introducing a dimension to the Games that was contrary to the Olympic spirit that competition is between athletes, not nations. ‘Olympic Games: Comradeship or patriotism?’ The Power of Culture website, March 2002, viewed 13 January 2012,

             Further controversy arose during the 2002 Games over the judging of the figure skating ‘pairs’ competition. Judges awarded the gold medal to Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia and the silver medal to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada. After the Canadians protested, the French judge admitted to having been pressured to give the Russians a higher ranking. In an unprecedented ceremony the Canadian pair was presented with gold medals; but at the same time the Russians were allowed to retain their gold medals.

             Following the Games, a new judging system was introduced for future skating competitions, with the intention that fairer outcomes would ensue. But as one commentator notes, judging for the event in question, as for other events in which marks are awarded for artistic merit, at times continued to reflect old Cold War divisions, which were unlikely to be eradicated simply by changes to adjudication rules. ‘The Olympic figure skating controversy at Salt Lake City’, E 2 website, 14 February 2002, viewed 13 January 2012,

[88].         Wallechinsky, The complete book of the Olympics, op. cit.

[89].         IOC, revenue sources and distribution page, viewed 13 January 2012,   

[90].         IOC, IOC launches 2012 Sport and Art Contest, media release, 15 July 2011, viewed 13 January 2012,

[91].         For more information about the IOC commissions see the Official Website of the Olympic Movement, viewed 13 January 2012,

[92].         United Nations membership is at the United Nations website, viewed 13 January 2012, National Olympic Committees are established in Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei/Taiwan, for example. See all national Olympic committees at the IOC website, viewed 13 January 2012,

[93].         The Australian Olympic Foundation (the Foundation) was constituted in February 1996. Members and Directors of the Foundation are the voting members of the Executive of the Australian Olympic Committee. The aim of the Foundation is to develop and protect the Olympic Movement in Australia in accordance with the Olympic Charter. In particular its objective is to fund the preparation and participation of Australian Teams in the Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games and Regional Games.

[94].         Australian Olympic Committee website, viewed 13 January 2012,  

[95].         Australia won no gold medals at this Olympics. It won one silver medal in men’s hockey and four bronze, two in sailing, one in equestrian and one in swimming.

[96].         The exception to this was the period 1972–75 (under the Whitlam Government) when a Ministry for tourism and recreation was funded with the intention of providing greater access to sports for all Australians. L. Embrey, ‘Sport for all? The politics of funding, nationalism, and the quest for gold’, in K. Schaffer and S. Smith (eds) The Olympics at the Millennium: power, politics and the Games, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 2000, pp. 281–282.

[97].         Aim as stated in the Australian Sports Commission Act 1989, section 6, viewed 13 January 2012,

[98].         See profiles, viewed 13 January 2012, Michael Klim, Alisa Camplin, and Lauren Jackson,

[99].         Australian Sports Commission Annual Report 2010–11,viewed 13 January 2012,

[100].        This has sometimes caused controversy, for example, in the case of Ian Thorpe’s disqualification at the Australian swimming selection trials for the Athens Olympics after he made an illegal false start. Thorpe was eventually able to compete when his team mate, Craig Stevens, withdrew from the event. See ‘Thorpe has grounds to appeal, says lawyer’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April 2004, viewed 13 January 2012,

    and C. Clarey, ‘In the arena: Thorpe’s Olympic slip sends rival on a guilt trip’, International Herald Tribune, 7 April 2004, viewed 13 January 2012,

             Note also there are A and B qualifying levels for the Olympics. For example, for athletics events, qualifying standards must be reached during a respective qualification period at the competitions organised and authorised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). National Olympic Committees may enter up to three athletes per event provided they have all met the ‘A’ qualifying standard or one athlete per event if she/he has met the ‘B’ qualifying standard. See more information at the IAAF website, viewed 16 January 2012,

[101].        Olympic Charter, op. cit.

[102].        C Lord, ‘Eric the Eel’, Lane 9 News, 20 September 2000, viewed 16 January 2012,

[103].        See Pieter van de Hoogenband’s website, viewed 16 January 2012,

[104].        Four time Olympian in water polo, 1988 to 1999.

[105].        World Olympians Association website, viewed 16 January 2012,

[106].        S Ross, ‘Modern Olympics symbols and traditions’, Information Please Database, viewed 16 January 2012,

[107].        Pierre de Coubertin first proposed the idea of an Olympic museum in 1915 but it did not come to fruition until 1993. Since its opening the museum has been visited by over two million people. See museum website, viewed 16 January 2012,

[108].        For further information see ‘Medals and medal ceremonies,,

[109].        See a selection of mascots at, viewed 16 January 2012,

[110].        Source for Lizzie logo, International Paralympic Committee website, viewed 16 January 2012,

[111].        Ross, ‘Modern Olympics’, op. cit.

[112].        The youngest person ever to light the Olympic flame was schoolgirl and Canadian figure skater Robyn Perry, age 12 years, who lit the flame at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.

[113].        ‘Olympic flame reaches Mt Everest summit’, AAP, 5 August 2008, viewed 16 January 2012,  

[114].        B Thornton, ‘Olympic Games’, The Weekly Standard, vol. 9, iss. 36, 6 July 2004,

[115].        J Coakley, Sport in society: issues and controversies, Mosby, St. Louis, 1992 quoted in Toohey and Veal, op. cit., p. 21.

[116].        Passing reference made to this issue in ‘Olympic changes: dollars and sense’, Online News Hour, Public Broadcasting Service, 23 July 1996, viewed 16 January 2012,

[117].        Brian Martin points out athletes who are successful in prominent sports can become rich through sponsorships. They benefit from their association with the Olympics, which in turn reflects favourably on their sponsors. B Martin, ‘Design flaws of the Olympics’, Social Alternatives, Vol. 19, No. 2, April 2000, pp. 19–23.

[118].        The Dream Team averaged an Olympic record 117.3 points a game, and won by an average of 43.8 points. The closest an opponent could come to winning was a deficit of 32 points (117–85 versus Croatia in the gold medal game).

[119].        While professionals are not ineligible to compete in other sports, for example, in Association Football (soccer), there are age restrictions (players need to be under 23 years, although teams reaching the finals may also field three players above this age) which effectively limits the participation of professionals. In 2009 there was some suggestion that the three player exception may be changed for the London Olympics, but this did not eventuate. See International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), Activity Report, Paris 2004, viewed 16 January 2012,

[120].        For discussion of differences see P Jako, ‘Safety measures in amateur boxing’, viewed 16 January 2012,   

[121].        See for example R. Tyrrell Jnr, ‘Olympic ideal of amateurism’, New York Sun, 5 October 2007,viewed 16 January 2012,

[122].        See the story of the United States college ice hockey team at the 1980 Olympics for example. K. Allen, ‘College kids perform Olympic miracle’, chapter from USA Hockey: a celebration of a great tradition, 23 December 1997, reprinted on, viewed 16 January 2012,

[123].        See brief profile of Brundage, viewed 16 January 2012,     

[124].            See A Guttman, The Games must go on: Avery Brundage and the Olympic Movement, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984 for detailed discussion of Brundage’s uncompromising stance.

[125].        Killy was also involved in a controversial win in the slalom race. J Gettings, ‘1968: an avalanche named Killy’, Information Please Database, Pearson Education, viewed 16 January 2012,

[126].        See short biography viewed 16 January 2012,           

[127].        J Slater, ‘Changing partners: the relationship between the mass media and Olympic Games’, Fourth International Symposium for Olympic Research, viewed 16 January 2012,

[128].        ‘NBC lands U.S. Olympic rights through 2012’, CBC Sports, 7 June 2003, viewed 16 January 2012,

[129].     See image, viewed 16 January 2012, at

[130].        J Lucas, 1992, p.79, quoted by M Real, ‘The (Post) modern Olympics’, School of Communication, San Diego State University San Diego, viewed 16 January 2012,

[131].        IOC, Olympic marketing: fact file, 2010, viewed 16 January 2012,

[132].        Ibid.

[133].        IOC, Games of the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing 2008:global television and online media report, 2009, viewed 16 January 2012,        

[134].        Ibid.

[135].        Ibid.

[136].        B Martin, ‘Ten reasons to oppose all Olympic Games’, Freedom, vol. 57, no. 3, August 1996, pp. 19–23.

[137].        Ibid.

[138].        S Jenkins, ‘Green, not gold is the name of these Games’, Washington Post, 11 February 2006, p. EO1,viewed 16 January 2012,

[139].        For more detail see IOC website, viewed 16 January 2012,       

[140].        IOC, Marketing fact file, op. cit.

[141].     IOC, Final Report 2001–-2004, Chapter 4, viewed 16 January 2012,

[142].        Jenkins, ‘Green, not gold’, op. cit.

[143].        For more discussion of commercialism and the Olympics see R Barney, S Wenn and S Martyn, Selling the five rings: the International Olympic Committee and the rise of Olympic commercialism, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2004.

[144].        C Clarey, ‘Olympians find the times are changing’, International Herald Tribune, 31 October 2006, viewed 16 January 2012,

[145].        Also noted by S Jenkins, ‘Winning, cheating have ancient roots’, Washington Post, 3 August 2007, viewed 16 January 2012,         

[146].        M Kennedy, ‘Newer drugs used to enhance sporting performance, Medical Journal of Australia, 173, 2000, pp. 314–317, viewed 17 January 2012,

[147].        (United Kingdom) House of Commons, Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, 2004, Seventh Report of Session 2003–2004, HC 499-I, quoted in J Savulescu, B Foddy and M Clayton, ‘Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38, 2004, pp. 666–670, viewed 17 January 2012,

[148].        Danish cyclist Knud Jensen died of complications from a drug administered to intensify his blood circulation.

[149].        For more information on the Medical Commission, see the Official Website of the Olympic Movement, viewed 17 January 2012,

[150].        Australia’s Ron Clarke was the first person to be tested for drug use under this program. B Corrigan and R Kazlauskas, ‘Drug testing at the Sydney Olympics’,  Medical Journal of Australia, 173, 2000, pp. 312–313, viewed 17 January 2012,

[151].        For the first two years of its existence WADA was funded entirely by the IOC. In 2001, world governments agreed to provide 50 per cent of the funding for the organisation. A formula was introduced which was intended to apportion funding. Consequently, Africa contributes less than one percent, while Europe contributes 47.5 per cent to WADA funding.  For more information see funding section at the WADA website, viewed 17 January 2012, 

[152].        ‘Johnson stripped of Olympic gold’, On this Day September 28, BBC, viewed 17 January 2012,

[154].        See WADA 2012 prohibited list, viewed 17 January 2012,

[155].    IOC Final Report 2001­04, op. cit., Chapter 2.

[156].     J Dapeng, A Ljungqvist and H Troedsson (eds), The health legacy of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: successes and recommendations, World Health Organization, 2012, viewed 17 January 2012,

[157].        R Parisotto, Blood sports: the inside dope on drugs in sport, Hardie Grant, Prahan, 2006.

[158].        ibid. Also for discussion of genetic doping see C. Bronwlee, ‘Gene doping. Will athletes go for the ultimate high’, from Science News, at Centre for Genetics and society website, viewed 17 January 2012,

[159].     Europe provides 47.5 percent, the Americas 29 per cent, Asia 20.46 per cent, Oceania 2.54 per cent and Africa 0.5 per cent. List of funding contributions for 2012, viewed 17 January 2012, is at:

[160].        Savulescu et al, op. cit.

[161].        See profile at, viewed 17 January 2012,

[162].        ‘IOC President says Marion Jones doping admission “good thing” for sport’, The Canadian Press, 13 October 2007 (not available online).

[163].        M Osborne, ‘Medal may not be reassigned’, AAP at Foxsports, 9 October 2007,,8659,22559550-23218,00.html

[164].        Regulations Regarding Participation in the Olympic Games —Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter, agreed to 2008.

[165].        Decision of the Court, viewed 17 September 2012, is at: — This issue is likely to be raised once again when the WADA code is reviewed in 2012-13. The IOC will likely suggest changes to the code as a consequence of the CAS decision so as to turn Rule 45 into a punishment of eligibility, as opposed to an additional sanction imposed under the code. This change would then need to be approved at the WADA World Conference in 2013

[166].        Savulescu, op. cit.

[167].        For more detailed argument see Onset, Science Communication Program, University of New South Wales, 7 February 2006, For more detailed comparative table see Idea website, ‘Drugs in sport’, 29 September, viewed 17 January 2012,

[168].        Rose quoted in J Hooper, ‘New swimsuits unfair: Rose’, Daily Telegraph, 9 March 2008,viewed 17 January 2012,,22049,23343185-5001023,00.htm

[169]             ibid.

[170].            ‘Records “not down to swimsuits”’, BBCSPORT website, 27 March 2008,viewed 17 January 2012,

[171].        M Kinver, ‘Technology’s impact on sporting success ’, BBC News Online,, viewed 17 January 2012,

[172].        C Davis, ‘Gaining a competitive edge’, Materialstoday, vol. 10, issue 1–2, January–February 2007, ScienceDirect website, viewed 17 January 2012,

[173].        E Alberici, ‘Prosthetic technology may give Paralympic advantage’ Lateline, Transcript, ABC, 21 February 2012, viewed 13 June 2012,;query%3DId%3A%22emms%2Femms%2F237993%22

[174].        ‘Olympic history’, viewed 17 January 2012, at

[175].        See J Leder, Grace and glory: a century of women in the Olympics, Triumph Books, Washington, D.C., 1996, for more discussion of women and the Olympics.

[176].        For discussion see D Plymire and P Forman, ‘Speaking of Cheryl Miller: interrogating the lesbian taboo on a women’s basketball newsgroup’, NWSA Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Spring, 2001.

[177].        K Thomas, ‘After long fight for inclusion, women’s ski jumping gains Olympic status’, New York Times, 6 April 2011, viewed 17 January 2012,              

[178].        These were Pirjo Haggman of Finland and Flor Isava-Fonseca of Venezuela.

[179].        American, Anita DeFrantz. DeFrantz is also Chair of the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission, established as the Women and Sport Working Group in 1995.

[180].        A White and I Henry, Women, leadership and the Olympic Movement, Institute of Sport and Leisure Policy, January 2004.

[181].        J Watterson, College football: history, spectacle, controversy, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000 quoted by Wikipedia, article on Jim Thorpe, viewed 17 January 2012,

[182].        For details on Thorpe see official website of Jim Thorpe. viewed 17 January 2012, and information compiled from People Weekly Magazine, vol. 45, no. 1, 1 August, 1996.

[183].        See online version of Holocaust Museum, Washington DC exhibition on the 1936 Olympics viewed 17 January 2012, at

[184].        However, a number of boycotts by individuals occurred, for example, many Jewish athletes refused to participate in selection trials or attend the Games.

[185].        For discussion see D Kass, ‘The issue of racism at the 1936 Olympics’, Journal of Sports History, vol. 3, no. 3, 1976, viewed 17 January 2012,

[186].        M Lewis, ‘Obituary. Max Schmeling’, The Guardian February 2005,viewed 17 January 2012, In a 1938 rematch, Louis defeated Schmeling in one round.

[187].        For more detail about the 1936 Olympics see R Mandell, The Nazi Olympics, Macmillan, New York, 1971 or an online summary at The History Place, 2001, viewed 17 January 2012,

[188].        ‘Sportsmanship on the field’, Golden ripples blog, viewed 17 January 2012, Source of photo of Lutz and Owens at photos from the 1936 Games, IOC Commission for Culture and Olympic Education, Teaching values; an Olympic education toolkit, viewed 17 January 2012, See also C Tatz’ essay, ‘Race, politics and sport’, Sporting Traditions, the Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History, vol. 1, no. 1, November 1984 or online version, viewed 17 January 2012,

[189].        Martin, op. cit.

[190].        J Mangan and F Hong, (eds) Sport in Asian society: past and present, Frank Cass, London, 2003.

[191].        See A  Senn, Power, politics and the Olympic Games, Human Kinetics, Champaign, 1999, for discussion.

[192].        Olympic Charter, op. cit.

[193].        For more details see C Thornton, ‘International politics and the Olympic Movement’, DCTKD, 1996–2007 website, viewed 17 January 2012, and ‘On this day, 18 August’, viewed 17 January 2012, See also the chapter ‘South Africa and the Olympic Games’ in C Hill, Olympic politics, Athens to Atlanta 1896–1996, (second edition), Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1996.

[194].        Libya, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Gambia, Sudan, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Algeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad, Togo, Niger, Congo, Mauritius, Upper Volta and Malawi were not present at the Opening ceremony.  Iraq and Mauritius also joined the boycott. Egypt withdrew after the Opening Ceremony.

[195].        Previously in 1972, several African nations threatened to boycott the Olympics if Rhodesia, also ruled by whites, was allowed to compete. The IOC responded by barring Rhodesia from the Olympics

[196].        ‘1968. Student riots threaten Mexico Olympics’, On this day 2 October,, viewed 17 January 2012,

[197].        An interesting footnote, but one that went largely unnoticed at the time, was that the silver medallist, Australian Peter Norman, also participated in the protest by wearing an OPHR badge J  Gettings, ‘Civil disobedience’, Information Please, op. cit., viewed 17 January 2012, When Peter Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. M Flanagan, ‘Tell your kids about Peter Norman’,, 10 October 2006, viewed 17 January 2012,         

[198].        For the American political movement of the 1960s, see brief summary by V Hiltz and M Sell, ‘Black Power’, University of Michigan, 1998, and Amy Bass’ discussion in Not the triumph but the struggle: the 1968 Olympics and the making of the black athlete, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2002.

[199].        Source for photo in ‘Bitter price of Olympics’ iconic image’, Los Angeles Daily News,, 17 October 2003, viewed 17 January 2012,

[200].        Independent Race and Refugee News Network, ‘Athens Olympics under the shadow of anti-Muslim racism’, 22 April 2004,

[201].        J Havely, ‘The Olympics: a very political game’,, 13 July 2001, viewed 17 January 2012,

[202].        R Espy, The Politics of the Olympic Games, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1979, pp. 163–164.

[203].        For more detail see P Reynolds, ‘Suez: End of empire’, BBC News 24 July 2006, viewed 17 January 2012,

[204].        For a more detailed history of the Suez crisis, see W Lucas, Divided we stand: Britain, the US and the Suez crisis, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1991.

[205].        For a brief history see ‘1956 Hungarian Revolution’, Gati productions website, viewed 17 January 2012, For a more detailed history see F Vali, Rift and revolt in Hungary: nationalism versus communism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1961.

[206].        ‘Cold War erupts at Melbourne Olympics’, 7 December 1956, reprinted in special edition of Sydney Morning Herald, 18 April 2006, viewed 17 January 2012,

[207].        Ibid.

[208].        J Riordan, ‘Elite Sport Policy in East and West’, in L. Allison (ed), The Politics of Sport, Manchester University press, Manchester, 1986, pp. 66-89.

[209].        Ibid.

[210].        Senn, Power, politics and the Olympic Games, op. cit. p. 101.

[211].        ibid.

[212].        Wally McNamee/Corbis at Bookrags website, viewed 18 January 2012,

[213].        The Americans had won every men’s basket ball gold medal since 1936 and were shocked to lose in the final. They considered the Soviets had been given excessive chances to win. For a description of the game see F Saraceno, USA Basketball, G Brown, and the Basketball Hall of Fame article ‘1972 Munich Olympics. USA vs USSR Basketball Game’, viewed 18 January 2012,

[214].        J Fitzpatrick, ‘Miracle on ice: American hockey’s deifying moment’,, viewed 18 January 2012,

[215].        A Tomlinson, ‘Carrying the torch for whom? Symbolic power and Olympic ceremony’, in Schaffer and Smith, op. cit., p.171.

[216].        Senn, Power, politics and the Olympic Games op. cit. p. 198.

[217].        Transcript of Reagan’s speech accepting GOP nomination, New York Times, 24 August 1984, p. A/12 quoted in C Torres and M Dyreson, ‘The Cold War Games’, in Young and Wamsley, Global Olympics, op. cit., p. 78.

[218].        (1) East Germany 51, (2) Soviet Union 47 and (3) Finland 24.

[219].        J Longman, ‘Olympics; US may seek to change medals won by East Germans’, New York Times, 20 October 1998, viewed 18 January 2012,

[220].        For a history of communist China see F Schumman, Communist China: revolutionary reconstruction and international confrontation 1949 to the present, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1971.

[221].        ‘Beijing embraces Olympic Games’, at 24 March 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,         

[222].        Ibid.

[223].        Adapted from analysis in ‘China: Policy under stress in Olympic year, Oxford Analytica, 14 March, 2008.

[224].        Sports Illustrate website, viewed 18 January 2012,     

[225].        E Bulman, ‘Olympics displace 2 million’, Advisory Service for Squatters, 21 August 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,

[226].        ‘Human rights abuses up as Olympics approaches’, Asia News, 8 July 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,

[227].        Play Fair 2008 report Child labour, forced labour and ‘work experience’ in China—the blurred lines of illegality, 2 August 2007, viewed 18 January 2012, and statement, viewed 18 January 2012, M. Fong, ‘Beijing Games officials penalize firms’, The Wall Street Journal, 1 August 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,

[228].        See some perspectives of the Tibetan situation at: The International Campaign for Tibet website  viewed 18 January 2012,       and H. French, “Letter from China: Separating fact from image on Tibet’, International Herald Tribune, 26 September 2007, viewed 18 January 2012, and US/China: Human rights concern will have little impact,  Oxford Analytica, 9 April’, 2008.

[229].        M. Bristow, ‘China hails car trial a “success”’, BBC News, 21 August 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,

[230].        ‘Olympics report card: success or failure?’ Washington Post, 24 August 2008, viewed 18 January 2012,

[231].        Jacques Rogge, interview on BBC Hardtalk, 24 April 2002, Australia Tibet Council, ‘Protesting the IOC’s award of the 2008 Olympics to China’, 9 August 2004, viewed 18 January 2012,

[232].        C Hill, Olympic politics, op. cit., pp. 170–171.

[233].        H Sun-Joo, ‘South Korea in 1988: a revolution in the making’, Asian Survey, vol. 29, no. 1, 1989, p. 34, quoted in D Black and S Bezanson, ‘The Olympic Games: h Human rights and democratisation: lessons from Seoul and implications for Beijing’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 7, 2004, p.1252.

[234].        J Yardley, ‘Beijing Olympics: let the politics begin’, International Herald Tribune, 13 August 2007, viewed 18 January 2012,

[235].        ‘The Beijing Olympics: a focus for Chinese diplomacy’, International Institute for Strategic Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, March 2008.

[236].        One Planet Living website, viewed 3 February 2012, can be found at:

[237].        London Sustainability Plan, Towards One Planet 2012, second ed., December 2009, viewed 3 February 2012,

[238].        Olympic Delivery Authority, Sustainable Development Strategy, 2007, viewed 3 February 2012,

[239].        J Vidal and O Gibson, ‘London Olympics pollution on course to land Britain hefty fine from IOC’,, 24 April 2011, viewed 3 February 2012,

[240].        Olympic Delivery Authority, Designing for legacy, June 2009, viewed 3 February 2012,

[241].        London Olympics site, Meet the mascots page, viewed 3 February 2012,

[242].        Can public transport win gold?’ New Transit, August 2010, p13 cited in Transport Committee, and ‘IOC still has fears over traffic for London 2012’, Inside the Games, 25 August 2010, cited in Clearing the hurdles: transport for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Greater London Authority April 2011, viewed 3 February 2012,

[243].        The Minister for Olympics reported to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee meeting on 21 December 2010 that transport was one of his three biggest concerns and Lord Coe, Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), described it as a major risk at the Assembly Plenary meeting, 8 December 2010, cited in Clearing the hurdles, op. cit.

[244].        Clearing the hurdles, op. cit.

[245].        Olympic Delivery Authority, Connected: London 2012 transport – on track, July 2010, viewed 3 February 2012,

[246].        Clearing the hurdles, op. cit.

[247].        ‘Nightmare of 800 stranded underground after special Diamond Jubilee Tube train breaks down on hottest night of year... but Boris offers them just £40 compensation’, Mail online, 24 may 2012, viewed 13 June 2012,

[248].        ‘Iran not first to object 2012 London Olympics Logo’, International Business Times, 1 March 2011, viewed 3 February 2012,

[249].        N Pearce , London 2012 Olympics: Iran objects to Games logo due to similarity to word “Zion”’, The Telegraph, 28 February 2011, viewed 5 June 2012,

[250].        House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, The budget for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games: fourteenth report of session 2007–08, The House of Commons, London, April 2008, viewed 5 June 2012,

[251].        ‘The greatest sideshow on earth’, The Economist website, 22 July 2010, , viewed 1 June 2012,

[252].        A Osbourne, ‘Tessa Jowell: London Olympics was a mistake in light of recession’, 12 November 2008, The Telegraph, viewed 5 June 2012,

[253].        British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), ‘London 2012 Olympics Games budget gets cut by £27m’, 24 May 2010, BBC News website, viewed 1 June 2012,

[254].        Plaid Cymru, ‘Olympics – A welcome £8.9 million should have been so much more’, 22 December 2011, Plaid Cymru website, viewed 5 June 2012,

[255].        G Ponsonby, ‘SNP led campaign results in £16m Olympic triumph’, 23 December 2011, Newsnet Scotland website, viewed 5 June 2012,

[256].         ‘The greatest sideshow’, op. cit.

[257].        Ibid.

[258].        According to the Christian Science Monitor it will also operate separate McDonald's within the athletes' village and  three others at Olympic Park. Reported in ‘McDonald’s to open its largest ever restaurant in London’, Chicago Tribune, 2 May 2012, viewed 13 June 2012,

[259].         ‘Oh the irony! World’s biggest McDonald’s to open…on the Olympics site’, 21 July 2011, Daily Mail online, viewed 4 June 2012,’s-open-Stratford-site.html

[260].        O Gibson, ‘McDonald’s Olympic plan to ‘make children healthier’’, The Guardian, 16 April 2012, viewed 4 June 2012,’s-olympic-fitness-plan?newsfeed=true

[261].        E York, ‘McDonald’s marketing tying Summer Olympics to new effort to promote children’s well-being’, , Chicago Tribune, 27 April 2012, viewed 4 June 2012,

[262].        D Campbell and D Boffey, ‘Doctors turn on No 10 over failure to curb obesity surge’, The Guardian,14 April 2012, viewed 4 June 2012,

[263].        American Academy of Pediatrics, ‘Familiarity with television fast-food ads linked to obesity’, American Academy of Pediatrics website, 29 April 2012, viewed 5 June 2012,

[264].        Gibson, ‘McDonald’s Olympic plan, op. cit.

[265].        M Tancred, ‘Tweeting during test events’, Australian Olympic Team website, 26 February 2012, viewed 1 June 2012,

[266].        J Halloran, ‘Australian athletes banned from social websites’, The Australian, 3 October 2010, viewed 1 June 2012,

[267].        ABC, ‘D’Arcy and Monk under fire over gun photos’, ABC News website, 8 June 2012, sourced from AAP/Facebook, viewed 13 June 2012,

[268].        W Smith, ‘Nick D’Arcy, Kenrick Monk to stay clear of social media before and during Games’, June 12 2012, The Australian, viewed 13 June 2012,

[269].        ABC, ‘D’Arcy and Monk’, op. cit. 

[270].        Swimming Australia, ‘Swimming Australia statement’, 9 June 2012, Swimming Australia website, viewed 13 June 2012,

[271].        J Ungoed-Thomas, K Mansey and N Smith, ‘Race begins to halt Olympic bribes’, The Sunday Times, 1 January 2012, p. 4.

[272].        Ibid.

[273].        Ibid.

[274].        J Ungoed-Thomas and K Mansey, ‘Match-fixing threat to the Olympics’, 1 January 2012, The Sunday Times, p. 1.

[275].        British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), ‘London 2012: missiles may be placed at residential flats’, , BBC website, 29 April 2012viewed 31 May 2012,

[276].        Ibid.

[277].        R Booth, ‘London rooftops to carry missiles during Olympic Games’, , The Guardian, 29 April 2012 sourced from Reuters, viewed 5 June 2012,

[278].        R Booth, ‘‘It’s rather surreal’… residents react to plan for roof rockets during Olympics’, , The Guardian, 29 April 2012, viewed 31 May 2012,

[279].        BBC, ‘MoD snubs London 2012 Olympics flat missiles meeting’, BBC website, 30 May 2012, viewed 31 May 2012,

[280].        J Gilbert, ‘Argentina airs Olympic advert of athletes in Falklands on Belgrano anniversary’, , The Telegraph, 3 May 2012, viewed 29 May 2012,

[281].        ‘Falkland Islands claimed as ‘Argentine soil’ in secretly filmed Olympic advert’, The Guardian, 4 May 2012viewed 29 May 2012,

[282].        M Sweney, ‘Sir Martin Sorrell condemns Argentinian Falklands Olympics ad’, The Guardian, 4 May 2012, sourced from Ho/AFP/Getty Images, viewed 5 June 2012,

[283].        L Davies, ‘Argentina’s Falklands Olympic ad an insensitive stunt, says UK’, , The Guardian, 4 May 2012, viewed 29 May 2012,

[284].        J Gilbert, ‘Argentina’s foreign minister refuses to apologise for Falkland Islands Olympic video’, The Telegraph, 7 May 2012, viewed 29 May 2012,

[285].        Ibid.

[286].        B Henderson and J Gilbert, ‘Hockey player in controversial Falklands advert ‘to miss London Olympics’, The Telegraph, 9 May 2012, viewed 29 May 2012,

[287].        R. Bennett, ‘Olympics have become a sham’, Common dreams website, sourced from the Toronto Star, 1 September 2004, viewed 6 February 2012,

[288]         J. Kelly, Chair, Arts, Culture and Education Committee, London Olympics 2012, ‘A cultural perspective from the London 2012 Organising Committee, Team South West, Legacy South West newsletter, p. 3 and a variation of the same theme, ‘London launches friendship week’, 11 march 2010, viewed 6 February 2012,


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