The Long History of Olympic Boycotts, Protests and Demonstrations

Geopolitics have always been associated with the Olympics, and this year will be no exception.



1956: According to the International Olympic Committee, this was the first year that a modern Olympiad was the subject of a boycott. In this case, the move was spurred by the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary, which provoked several countries, including the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, to withdraw from the games. Meanwhile, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon did not compete in the Melbourne Games because of Britain and France's invasion of the Suez. And on top of that, China refused to participate because of Taiwan's participation, in a rivalry that continued for nearly three decades.


1964: South Africa was officially barred from involvement in the games due to the country's apartheid policies. The IOC told South African officials that they would only be accepted back into competition if they renounced racial discrimination in sport and reversed the ban on integrated sports within South Africa. The country did not meet enough of the qualifications, leading to South Africa's being barred from Olympic competition until 1992 as well as from numerous other international sporting competitions like the FIFA World Cup, cricket, tennis, and rugby.

Also, during the first games staged in an Asian country, Indonesia and North Korea each abstained from the Tokyo games. Several athletes from those two countries participated in the 1963 Games of the New Emerging Forces, and the IOC declared that athletes who participated in that sporting festival would be disqualified from Olympic competition. So many of Indonesia's and North Korea's top athletes went to the other games that the countries pulled their teams altogether.