The Tokyo Olympics: A Political Look Back (and forward to Beijing 2022)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Matthew Andrews teaches American History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His courses use the history of sports to explore race relations, gender ideals, political protest, and American identity. Professor Andrews was asked by the UNC student body to give the honorific “Last Lecture” to the graduating class of 2015. His students have voted him their university’s “Best Professor” three times since 2016.


With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games just ended—in 2021!—we will take a look back at some of the more significant political stories from the Games (not the same stories that NBC covered at these Games). We will explore controversies about gender equality and public safety at these Games. We will ask, why does Puerto Rico compete as a sovereign nation at the Games? And why does China do well at the Games when India wins so few medals? Then we will take a look forward six months to the Winter 2022 Games scheduled for Beijing. In the United States there are going to be loud calls for a boycott of those Games. By taking a look back at the U.S. boycott of Moscow 1980, we will explore the strategy and significance of a potential boycott and speculate what the United States and the U.S. Olympic Committee might do.



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