The Olympic Games : late twentieth century (1976-1998) / by Mark Dyreson and Michelle M. Sikes

Dyreson, Mark | Sikes, Michelle M.

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

In the last quarter of the 20th century, watching the Olympics on television became the world’s most common shared experience. As increasing globalisation knitted together the world via electronic communication mediums, interdependent market systems, and international politics into a new “global village,” the Olympics provided that village’s meeting ground. Propelled by the emerging power of global television, the Olympic Movement expanded rapidly in this period. The number of participating nations and athletes swelled. The number of events and sports climbed ever upwards. Increasing numbers of women entered Olympic venues as competitors. The cost of the Olympics rose dramatically, as did the revenues the Games generated. The mass media, particularly television, impacted each and every aspect of Olympic growth. Television broadcast fees and advertising opportunities transformed the International Olympic Committee from an aristocratic club into a global corporate conglomerate. Television guaranteed the demise of amateurism and paved the way for Olympians to become openly professional athletes. Television made some Olympic champions into global celebrities and heightened the dramatic appeal of Olympic narratives. Television fuelled doping and made the Games a target for terrorists. Television also ensured that the Olympics would remain an important venue in international affairs. Cold War political rivalries played out in front of audiences numbering in the billions in competitions, and in unprecedented boycotts. Television captured the dramatic end of the Cold War in early 1992 with images of an amorphous “Unified Team” replacing the powerful Soviet juggernaut in the Olympic line-up. Television captured new rivalries, as the United States increasingly squared off against the People’s Republic of China in Olympic battles that echoed the Cold War struggles.

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