The Olympic Games stand as the world's largest athletic competition. As such, they are a magnet for those wishing to make political statements. Here are five times when the Olympics were overshadowed by politics:

  • 1936: Despite threats of a boycott by the United States and several European countries over Adolf Hitler's Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitic policies, the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin went on. U.S. athlete Jesse Owens, who is African-American, won four gold track and field medals at the games.

  • 1940, 1944: Winter Olympics scheduled for Sapporo, Japan, and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, and Summer Olympics scheduled for Tokyo, Japan, and London, England, are canceled because of World War II.

  • 1968: U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos finish first and thirdin the 200-meter dash in Mexico City. After the medals presentation, and during the national anthem, Smith and Carlos bow their heads and raise black-gloved fists, symbolizing the quest by African-Americans for racial equality.

  • 1972: Terrorists from the Palestinian organization Black September take 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches hostage during the Munich Summer Games. A tense, 19-hour standoff ends at the airport with a shootout between the terrorists and West German authorities. All 11 Israelis are killed, along with five of the eight terrorists and a West German policeman.


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  • 1980, 1984: At President Jimmy Carter's urging, the U.S. Olympic team boycotts the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Thirty-five countries follow the Americans' lead and boycott the games as well. Four years later, the Soviets and 16 Eastern-bloc countries boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

    Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/garyscribe.