Politics and sport have been bedfellows since at least the birth of the ancient Olympic Games some 28 centuries ago, when city states that vied year-round for finite resources came up with a venue of bloodless competition to keep themselves from killing each other. Even in antiquity the political intrigue that followed took on many forms. Tensions over hosting rights for the quadrennial festival were commonplace. And there were no shortage of athletes who, for political ends, competed under flags of convenience. Sparta’s loan of three-time Olympic champion Chionis in 630 BC helped put the city of Cyrene on the map. And what of Astylos of Croton, double champion of the stade and diaulos in 488 BC, who was exiled from his fatherland after taking a bribe to compete as a citizen of Syracuse four year later, prompting his former neighbors to destroy his statue and turn his house into a prison. Their stories and countless others might have been lost had historians like Thucydides, Xenophon and Pausanias followed the imperative familiar to athletes and journalists today: stick to sports. The modern age has proven no more siloed: Jesse Owens staring down Hitler’s master race in Berlin, Jackie Robinson shattering… Read full this story
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