The Olympic Games As A Reflection Of Global Power

Posted by Samantha Mary Jones on December 8th, 2021

Scholars noted that success in mega sports events, such as the Tokyo Olympic Games held in Japan, can also identify the great powers within the global system. Although the official motto for the Olympics is “Faster, higher, stronger—together,” taking a pragmatic approach to the event can help understand that the Olympics Games are potentially another platform where the global powers come together to compete. On the outside, the mega-event might market ‘togetherness,’ but in reality, it’s nothing more than an idiosyncratic competition among several nations competing to showcase who dominates the global arena without using economic pressure or force.

Thus, the medal tally suggests which states are powerful enough to dominate the Olympic Games, and subsequently, the world. By the time Tokyo Olympics ended, the United States was the only nation to have won over a hundred medals. Indeed, all team and individual victories by contestants are impressive expressions of human perseverance and spirit. Those who merely competed, and those who won, both deserve adoration and admiration of sports enthusiasts across the globe. But it makes us wonder how some states manage to present champions and record breakers by dozens and sometimes hundreds in contrast to nations that can hardly present one. What phenomena can then explain the success of the great powers within the international arena and the Olympics?

Some deem demographic significance to be a sound explanation, but this doesn’t explain India’s 7 medals for more than a billion people as compared to UK’s 65 medals for almost 67 million people. How can we compare United States’s lead with over 300 million in population to China, which is currently approaching more than one and a half billion people? Nations like Israel or India with a handful of medals might be treated as regional powers because they’ve significant economic and military powers, but can they stand head-to-head with these highest-ranked states? Should power be measured in terms of the aircraft, tanks, and nuclear weapons and the cultural appeal or economic strength they possess? Does membership in international alliances matter? The answer can be complex because power should ideally be measured using all of these factors. However, what turns any nation into a great power?

In his Theory of International Relations, 1979, Waltz argued that a great power has significance in economic capabilities, population, resource endowments, territory, political stability, competence, and military strength. Taking his views forward, we can presume that these resource endowments in general and education and sports are significant for the definitive analysis of the global system.

In this case, the correlation between power and medal count might seem unrelated because teams or individuals swim, run, box, grapple, jump, and sweat tirelessly for medals. However, such prestigious sporting events can only be subjugated by teams and individuals that are nurtured adequately. This means that states which cannot train their representatives properly have lesser resources to spare on sports or in general. If a wealthy and powerful state can’t allocate its resources towards education and training of its representatives, it can indicate that the nation isn’t wealthy or strong enough to dominate the related regional or global arena. For example, Iran and North Korea might have attempted to develop their nuclear capabilities or space programs, but to do so would be at the expense of their citizens.

In addition, medal counts in world championships or the Olympic Games suggest whether or not a global system is non-polar, multipolar, bipolar, or unipolar. Despite the many complexities of the global system like pandemics, conflicts, wars, and economic problems, a state’s endowment for education and sports can indicate its strengths. If a state seeks global hegemony, it will attempt to be victorious not only in global markets and the battlefield but also in softer events such as the Olympic Games.  

About The Author

The author is a writer, editor, part-time lecturer, and full-time researcher at a reputable educational institution. She has co-edited four books before starting his journey as a journalist who focuses on cultural artifacts, sports, and education as critical factors that reflect power within the global political arena.

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Samantha Mary Jones

About the Author

Samantha Mary Jones
Joined: February 17th, 2020
Articles Posted: 7

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