The Olympic Games is the most celebrated sporting event for all nations in the world. Almost every sporting discipline is included in the itinerary and most of the countries in the world participates in it. It showcases human virtues such as perseverance, courage, determination, etc and in this respect it serves as a theatre of drama. It also brings forth such intense emotions as ecstasy (upon winning a medal) and dejection (upon failing to win) in its participants. At a political level, the games bring together people from many nations, with different religious, cultural and economic backgrounds. This makes the Games a mosaic of the entire gamut of human civilization. (Wallechinsky, 2004) This essay will pertain itself those episodes of the Olympic Games that took place in the early decades of the twentieth century. These episodes are quite significant in that they played an influential role in shaping social and political developments to follow. The rest of this essay will further elaborate on this thesis.
The 1900 Summer Olympic Games was a very colorful event, given that it took place in the cultural capital of Europe – Paris. In the Olympic events of this period, there were no awarding of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Hence, medals were awarded to the top three athletes retrospectively. It then emerged that France, the host nation won most of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, followed by the United States and Great Britain. Competitions were held for a total of 20 disciplines. These disciplines included Archery, Tennis, Rugby, Swimming, Athletics, Sailing, Equestrian, Polo, Golf, among many others. (Kamper & Mallon, 1992) But most importantly, it included events for women athletes and in this respect can be viewed as a path-breaking event. For example, Charlotte Cooper was crowned the first ever female tennis Olympic champion after she won the women’s singles competition. For this reason, the 1900 edition can be considered a watershed event in women’s liberation movement. At the same time, this edition was not free of controversy, as three marathon runners from the United States accused French competitors of cheating by taking short-cuts in the race. (Wallechinsky, 2004)
The next edition of the Games was held in the United States, which was at the time an emerging global power. Hosted by St. Louis, Missouri, this event cemented United States’ status as an important imperial power in global politics. New sports such as Dumbbells, Freestyle wrestling, Decathlon and Boxing were introduced in this event. The host nation won a majority of the medals, followed by Germany and Cuba. Since many of the athletes were amateurs at this time, their long naval voyage across the Atlantic had sapped them of energy and fitness. This made the competition skewed in favor of host nation’s athletes, who easily won on many occasions. Yet, Germany managed to upstage other European nations in the medals tally – a sign of its growing stature in Europe. The political relations between America and European countries was amicable at this stage. But it would turn uncertain in a few years time, as the United States and Germany would be facing off on opposing sides during the First World War. (Crowther, 2007)