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Sports and Nationalism

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    In the US, the Olympics have been the most obvious site for the intersection of sports and nationalism. Until recently, therefore, the major compensation that could be derived from being an Olympian, given the strictures associated with maintaining status as an amateur, came from the visibility afforded those who represented their country preferably with distinction. Nike Air Max 90 Hyperfuse Hombres Blanco 131021-002. When most Americans played football and baseball, games which had only a limited international dimension, sporting outlets for nationalist and patriotic fervor were confined to the Olympics. Television commentators were acutely aware of this and their coverage of the Olympics focused fundamentally on highlighting American successes. Moreover, nationalist intensity associated with the Olympics was exacerbated by Cold-War rivalries. Americans as the leader of the “Free World” competed with East Germany and the Soviet Union, the communist powerhouses.

    African American track stars, boxers and college basketball players were able, at least in small measure, to reap the benefits of favorable attitudes deriving from their goldmedal winning performances. Nike Air Max 90 Hombres Leopard Rojo 472513-049. Many of the athletes also celebrated their “Americanness,” often taking victory laps or in some way wrapping themselves in the American flag. Other black athletes, especially at the 1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich Olympics, used the platform to make statements of protest against racial policies in the United States.

    Many of the memorable moments in Olympic sports, then, have been those that could be framed in reference to nationalism. The Soviet Union’s disputed victory at the 1972 Munich Olympics against a highly favored American basketball team (the game being decided on a very controversial last-second play) was cause for dismay. Eight years later, at the winter games in Lake Placid, New York, during the Iran hostage crisis, the success of the US hockey team’s college players against the Soviet “machine” gave rise to widespread euphoria. Nike Air Max 90 Hyperfuse Mujeres Blanco Verde Púrpura W454460-321. In gymnastics, the five-medal performance of Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Los Angeles games (clad in new flag-motif leotards) made her the darling of games tainted by a Soviet boycott.

    This identification between nationalism and the Olympics has diminished somewhat in recent years. In part this is due to the end of Cold-War rivalries, but it is also a result of the growing professionalism of the Olympics. The athletes no longer need to maintain amateur status and so no longer pin all their hopes on their Olympic performances. Moreover, some of the competitiveness has been undermined by the inclusion of professionals in recent games. Instead of a team of American basketball players drawn from the NCAA, the US now fields “dream teams” that pull in stars exclusively from the NBA. The winner of the gold medal is now a foregone conclusion and many of the games in which the United States plays end up being humiliating for the other team. In other Olympic sports, nationalist sentiment is on the rise. This is particularly so for women’s soccer, where Americans dominate but maintain strong rivalries with countries like Brazil and China, and patriotic feelings feed on the other major arena of sporting nationalism—soccer’s world cups.

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