Since the birth of the modern Olympics movement in the late nineteenth century, its leaders have attempted to maintain a strict separation of athletics...

Since the birth of the modern Olympics movement in the late nineteenth century, its leaders have attempted to maintain a strict separation of athletics and politics. Former International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage once stated, “We actively combat the introduction of politics into the Olympic movement.” But this attempt to keep politics out of the Olympics has been a bit disingenuous. After all, athletes will march into the stadium for this years Rio Games behind their national flags, and medalists will take the stand while listening to their national anthems. And many times, IOC claims to be apolitical have been outright hypocritical. Brundage was especially guilty in this department. In 1936, he praised Nazi Germany for offering a model of how to “stamp out communism and arrest the decline of patriotism.” Even as late as the 1950s, he wrote of the benefits of an “intelligent” dictatorship.

“To say the Olympics transcend politics is to conjure fantasy.” So writes Jules Boykoff at the start of his book Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics (Verso, 2016). A former international athlete and now political scientist, Jules gives a well-researched account of the cost overruns, national boycotts, and athlete protests that have been present in the games from their very beginning. He finishes with an in-depth look at the crony corruption at the heart of the present-day Olympics, based on his findings as a Fulbright scholar in Rio. A lively read, full of scenes that are familiar and plenty that are new, Jules book is an up-close and personal look at the halls of Olympic power.

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