Whatever Happened to the ‘Us vs. Them’ Olympics?


The creators of the modern Olympics founded the Games with the intent to foster peace and brotherhood, healthy athletic competition, a humanistic appreciation of man’s great achievements—et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. A nice thought. In reality, for the vast majority of the Games’ history their dirty, open secret has been that ruthless, zero-sum geopolitical competition, not sports, really gave the quadrennial competitions their sizzle.

In 1936, with Germany a hostile and ascendant power, the Black sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens shamed Adolf Hitler on his home turf by beating every white athlete in arguably the Games’ premier event. When the civil rights era was at its

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