SLATE: An Olympics Without Anthems

My first article on Slate!

With the Winter Olympic Games well underway in South Korea, we should all be girding ourselves for what has become virtually a two-week infomercial for American patriotism, with some sports on the side. With our athletes covered head-to-toe in the stars and stripes, it becomes clearer every Olympiad that this isn’t about sports, not really. Rather, the Olympics have become an exercise in international relations and geopolitics, played out in the media coverage that drives the Games.

This was not supposed to happen. From their revival in the 1890s, the Olympics were theoretically intended to be an apolitical sporting exhibition, a celebration of individual achievement. The forces of neoliberalism have over time turned them into something else. But that change did not occur without some resistance, for one man took a stand 50 years ago, and almost got every flag and national anthem banned from Olympic competition.

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