2013: Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 5-18

The Interference of Politics in the Olympic Games, 
and How the U.S. Media Contribute to It

Anthony Moretti



In February 2014, Russia will host the Olympic Games for only the second time in its history. Once again, the Olympic spirit—as defined and espoused by the International Olympic Committee—will clash with the political interests that overshadow the Games. This paper examines the political undertones of the 1980 Summer Olympics, hosted by Moscow and which took place during an ice-cold period of the Cold War, and asks whether similar undertones will be on display next year. The 1980 Games were a phenomenal success for Soviet athletes and their Eastern European colleagues. However, in the absence of the United States and more than 50 other nations, the political frame from a Western context was that of athletes from a corrupt system competing alongside their comrades. The boycott of these Games demonstrated the power of the White House and the often lapdog quality of the American media. Now as the Games return to Russia, the issue of whether a Cold War-like mentality will influence U.S. media reporting of the 2014 Sochi Olympics must be asked. The conflicting images in Western news media discourse of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his “Communist past” combined with a tepid diplomatic relationship between his government and the Obama administration provide evidence that a negative portrayal of Russia and therefore its athletes will be displayed in February 2014. And yet there is no impetus for a boycott next year. This paper explores why.


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