Olympics Series Week 1: Reflect on Cooperation

The opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are merely weeks away. In the weeks leading up to the thirtieth Olympiad, we want to highlight five stories that exemplify global cooperation and international justice. Some of the topics we will cover are North and South Korea marching together at the 2000 games, the human rights salute of 1968, and the relationship between international institutions and peacemaking.

The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece. It instantly became a universally recognized sporting event involving many countries including Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, and the United States. However, national teams were not an integral component of the games until ten years later. Despite this, athletes felt a sense of pride in competing on behalf of their country, but prioritized cooperation.

The Olympic Charter, which governs the games, is written to reflect the spirit of cooperation espoused by world leaders every four years. Three "fundamental principles of Olympism" are especially relevant:

"The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity"

and

"The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent  action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world's athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings."

and

"Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion,politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

It is critical to have these words in mind while viewing, analyzing, or participating the Olympics. The event provides an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of the international community during the past four years. Also, it gives us some great sporting moments!

Check back next week for a story about international cooperation on the Korean peninsula at the 2000 Sydney games.

Co-Authored by Research Associates Megan Fantoni and Sean Langberg.

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