Sports and politics, both adrenaline pumping traditionally male-dominated fields, have always been intertwined. But with more and more commercialization of sports in recent times, this liaison has proved to be very messy.
With sports’ deals turning more and more lucrative as far as commercialization is concerned, politicization of sports has increased manifold, in recent years. Whether it is the recent Sourav-Chappell episode, or the Pillai story in hockey, politicization of sports has proved injurious and degrading for sports. If sports is to get back its lost innocence, it must no doubt be freed from this unnecessary, mindless political influence. However, it becomes necessary to examine the causes behind such politicization over the years.
Kings and Heads of State have traditionally been patrons of not only sportsmen but also of the major sporting events. Often such involvements led to undesirable interferences, robbing sports of its innocence. But magnitude of such interference, no doubt, increased in the later half of the twentieth century. Even the greatest sporting extravaganza on earth- the Olympic Games have increasingly been marred by political contentions and have undermined the avowed aim of modern Olympics- to foster international unity. This happened specially during the two World Wars. World War I saw the cancellation of the Olympic Games of 1916. in 1936, Hitler tried to use them to demonstrate Aryan superiority and Nazi power, but was snubbed by the extraordinary exploits of the black American sprinter Jesse Ownes (who won an unprecedented 4 Gold medals).
The games scheduled for 1940 and 1944 were also cancelled due to World War II. Tragedy, resulting out of the political contentions in Middle East, marked the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, as members of an Arab guerilla organization killed two Israeli athletes and took nine others as hostage, who were later killed. The US withdrew from the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow in the former USSR due to political reasons; the erstwhile USSR retaliated by dropping out of 1984 Games held in Los Angeles in the US. The Games thereafter have, however, managed to keep out political issues from the sporting arena.
Similarly, popular games like football, cricket and basketball have been victims of increasing politicization.