War Without the Shooting: The Olympics Past and Future

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Matthew Andrews teaches American History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His courses use the history of American sports to explore race relations, gender ideals, political protest, and American identity. Professor Andrews was asked by the UNC student body to give the honorific “Last Lecture” to the graduating class of 2015. His students voted him their university’s “Best Professor” in 2016.



With the 2020 Summer Olympic Games still scheduled to take place in summer 2021, this talk will explore the complex relationship between the Olympic Movement and global politics. By focusing on a handful of the more significant Olympiads, we will consider the paradox of an event that was created to celebrate human commonality, but one that requires athletes to compete as representatives of different nations. We will discuss how the United States and the Soviet Union (and other nations) used the Games for nationalist propaganda, how different individuals have used the Games as a global theater for political protest, something Olympic officials are fearful about in Tokyo this summer. The final portion of the presentation will explore the pros and cons of hosting the Olympic Games during a pandemic.



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