The Games Must Go On: The Struggle Between Internationalism and Nationalism in Modern Olympic Movement


The ancient Olympic Games that took place in Greece from approximately 776 BCE to 393 CE inspired the creation of a modern Olympic Games. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern movement, believed that Olympics could bring the international community together in peaceful competition, reducing the likelihood of war. Although the goal of the modern Olympic movement has been to foster the ideal of internationalism - a more interconnected and peaceful global community, the Games have often been subsumed by actions that lead to the opposite, nationalism. The ancient Olympic Games took place for more than a thousand years and were never cancelled; yet the modern games, though just over one hundred years old, have been cancelled three times and have been entrenched in regional and international conflict. What has made the modern Olympic Games more susceptible to international tensions? This thesis argues that an inherent struggle between the ideal of internationalism and the reality of nationalism has allowed the Games to be more susceptible to international tensions, putting the goals of the Olympic movement in jeopardy. This thesis examines several factors that have contributed to the struggle between internationalism and nationalism. These factors are: 1) the International Olympic Committee (IOC), 2) the structure of the games, 3) the activities of individual states, and 4) the activities of several third parties, including the United Nations and terrorists. This thesis employs a historical analysis of these various agents and structures that have influenced the modern Olympic Games. An analysis of this struggle provides answers about why the modern Olympic movement has been so susceptible to international tensions. Through a historical analysis of the agents and structures of the Olympic Games it has become evident that several factors have contributed to the ideal of internationalism through rhetoric, but in action have undermined these ideals through nationalism. This paradox has placed the future of the Olympic Games in jeopardy. Nationalism has overshadowed the purposes and ideals of the movement. If the influence and presence of nationalism can be reduced, the true Olympic ideal may be achieved. This analysis has led to several policy prescriptions that will reduce the struggle between internationalism and nationalism. This research is important to the academic community to understand different factors that have hindered internationalism in the past, and possibly the future.


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Thesis Completion





Jungblut, Bernadette


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; International Olympic Committee; Olympics -- History; Olympics -- Political aspects







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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