Six Historic Olympic Moments Highlighting Racism in Sport

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New Book by Robert Weisbord explores the history of racism in the Olympics

Racism and the Olympics Book Cover

Racism and the Olympics

"Sports hold up a mirror to society as a whole."

As billions of fans feverishly tune into the Olympics, underlying political, religious, and racial tensions are both placated and heightened and this summer Olympic games have been no different with high-profile athletes snubbing their opponents in the public eye.

One such athlete, Islam El Shehaby of Egypt, was sent home after refusing to shake his Israeli opponent's hand. The International Olympic Committee said El Shehaby's behavior was "against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic values."

The spirit of the Olympic games is to promote international fraternalism through "friendly competitions." Yet since their revival in 1896, they have been a hotbed of racial tensions and protest.

"Race in sports cannot be disentangled from societal problems, nor can race or sports be fully understood separately," writes Robert Weisbord in his book, "Racism and the Olympics."

The book covers six key events in the history of the modern day Olympic games where race and politics played a central role:

1. Racism and the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

2. Jews, blacks, and the 1936 Nazi Olympics

3. The 1940 Winter Olympics that never happened—outbreak of World War II

4. Jessie Owens, Tommie Smith and Black protest at the 1968 Mexico City Games

5. Apartheid and the expulsion of South Africa from the Olympics

6. Legitimacy of a state and the expulsion of Rhodesia

By revisiting how the Olympics have dealt with racism over the years, Weisbord offers a window to better understanding these dynamics. He also discusses the role of international politics and the criteria that should be used to determine nations that are selected to take part in and serve as venues for the Olympic Games.

"'Racism and the Olympics' is a must read for anyone interested in the politics of international sport," says Richard Lapchick from the University of Central Florida. Lapchick is also the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, and director of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. "If you are not interested in that because you do not think there is politics in sport, then it is a must, must read because everyone should know the reality."

For more information about the book, "Racism and the Olympics," visit:

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