International Sports in the 20th and 21st Century
Kelley Burke


The College Board clearly recognizes the importance of sports, particularly the Olympics, in world context. In 2008, the AP World History Free-Response Document Based Question asked students to, “analyze factors that shaped the modern Olympic movement from 1892 to 2002.”[1] While both the AP World History Key Concepts guide, and The Earth and It’s Peoples make reference to sports, neither goes into enough detail or explanation on the topic. Bulliet in The Earth and It’s Peoples especially fails to recognize and discuss the importance of international sports. These authors may argue that studying international sports won’t help students understand the history of the world; however there are many reasons why this assumption is false. Moreover, the authors fail to explore the idea that technology, nationalism, and universal human rights are all needed for International sport events, such as the Olympics and World Cup Soccer, to occur successfully. History reveals the influence that sports can have for countries both internally and externally. While the AP World History Key Concepts references these points to some degree, The Earth and Its Peoples severely overlooks the importance of international sports. The Olympics can be effectively used to tie major themes of the 20th century together, however Bulliet and the other authors of The Earth and Its Peoples disregard this opportunity, and do not discuss one of the College Boards key concepts.

In his textbook, Bulliet does not recognize the importance of international sports in the scope of world history. In fact, the word “Olympics” cannot be found in either the glossary vocabulary list or in the index of the textbook. This is particularly striking when considering that the AP Board chose to make the 2008 Document Based Question about, “factors that shaped the modern Olympic movement.”[2] It is clearly necessary for Bulliet to provide the reader with a greater explanation of sports’ reflection of the world. Especially since the AP Board’s 24-page review packet dedicates one sentence to sports, whereas in his 969-page textbook, Bulliet spends a smaller number of words on his discussion of sports. Bulliet writes that, “Businesses sought out worldwide celebrities like basketball star Michael Jordan and championship golfer Tiger Woods to endorse their products,”[3] but he does not write about the importance of their athletic accomplishments. The AP Edition textbook, The Earth and Its Peoples, neglects to recognize the topic and influence of international supports, even though the College Board lists sports as significant in their Key Concepts guide.

When acknowledging that an entire essay question on the AP World exam was dedicated to the Olympics, the one sentence that the AP Board discusses sports in their review may seem insufficient. The College Board does state that, “Sport was more widely practiced and reflected national and social aspirations.”[4] Furthermore, the College Board cities three key examples of influential and significant sports, World Cup soccer, the Olympics, and cricket.[5] While the guide does not go into further detail on the topic of sports, it does cite other themes that effected international sports.

In the Key Concepts packet, the College Board states that, “new international organizations formed to maintain world peace and to facilitate international cooperation.” [6] International cooperation is certainly needed for events such as the Olympics to take place. On the other hand, the goal and promise of the Olympics have encouraged nations to make an effort to work together and suspend differences temporarily. Furthermore, the College Board states that, “the notion of human rights gained traction throughout the world.”[7] The Earth and Its Peoples further uses the universal declaration of human rights as a vocabulary word, defining it as, “a 1948 United Nations covenant binding signatory nations to the observance of specified rights.”[8] The College Board and Bulliet do not draw connections between human rights and sports, however this progression should be recognized. Equal human rights have to be established internationally to an extent in order for sporting competition between nations to occur. A standard acknowledgment of equal physical and mental capability between citizens and nations of diverse races and ethnicities has to be accepted for fair competition to commence.

Both Bulliet and the College Board comment on how, “changes in… technology enabled the widespread diffusion” of global culture.[9] This is significant because in order for the Olympics and World Cup soccer to occur, technology has to allow average citizens to acquire information on the events as they occur. Arguably, the games and events only have meaning if they are recognized and promoted by a country’s citizens. There is a need for propaganda and advertising before the Olympics, so that this event can gain support and be used as a means of enhancing nationalism in perspective countries. The Olympics allows nationalism to prosper in countries, while still supporting the idea of having friendly, international relations. An increased sense of nationalism in participating countries over time resulted in more average citizens uniting and supporting their country’s representatives. A heightened sense of nationalism and pride in one’s country can be paralleled with the anti-imperial ideologies of the 20th century. However sports were also indicative in revealing old colonial ties. Cricket is a major sport in India that was brought to the country by British settlers of the British East India Company.

As the 2008 AP World History Document Based Question suggests, the Olympics in particular can be examined to gain insight on world history. The Olympics were able to occur before and after both World Wars, the Cold War, a period of decolonization, and economic depressions. However it cannot be said that the Olympics were able to ignore these issues. In fact, the opposite is true. Competitors often brought with them to the games their country’s grievances and kept a close eye on their country’s actual enemy at the time. In the Document Based Question (DBQ) the College Board cited a piece of Arnold Lunn’s, a British Olympic team official, autobiography where Lunn reports that, “The young Nazis…sought to prove that Nazism was better than democracy.”[10] The DBQ also highlights Bob Matthias saying in 1972 that, “(the Soviet team) were in a real sense the enemy…. it wasn’t like competing against some guys from a friendly country.”[11] In Japan and the Soviet Union, hosting the Olympics benefited each country’s international relations. Ryotaro Azuma, the mayor of Tokyo in 1972, said “without the magic of the Olympics we (Japan) might not have gotten what we needed to rise as a world trade power.”[12] As a means of self-promotion, the Soviet Olympic Organization Committee stated that the Soviet Union was chosen to host the Olympic games because of the country’s, “consistent and peaceful foreign policy.”[13] The Olympics also boosted the morale of the athletes. In 1995 Boulmerka, an Algerian competitor, said “My victories give me confidence, and they give confidence to my country.” This athlete was also representing women. The Olympics are significant because they show the progress women have made in culture over time. In 1908 “2 percent of the athletes were women.”[14] One woman in these games, Sybil Newall, won the gold metal for Great Britain in archery.[15] In the 1960 Olympics located in Rome, 11.5 percent of the competitors were women.[16] And in the 1992 Olympics that were held in Spain, 29 percent of the athletes were women, one being Boulmerka, who also commented that she, “represent(s) … all the women in my (her) country who aspire to be athletes.”[17] The number of women competing in the Olympics has continued to rise; in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, over 42 percent of the athletes were women.[18]

The Olympics and sporting events in general have had a greater influence on world history than the textbook accounts for. While the textbook covers in detail progressions in nationalist ideas, technology, and international relations, it fails to connect these concepts with international sports. By looking at the Olympics, one can see the change of women’s role over time, the effect of wars on international relations, and the clash of nations with opposing governments and ideologies. It is imperative for Bulliet to improve The Earth and Its Peoples by including information on the significance of the Olympics in world history.



Bibliography
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, "Record Women's Participation." Last modified August 18, 2008. Accessed May 2, 2012. http://en.beijing2008.cn/news/official/ioc/n214559789.shtml.

Bulliet , Richard , Pamela Crossley , Daniel Headrick, Steven Hirsch, Lyman Johnson , and David Northrup. The Earth and Its Peoples. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning , 2011.

The College Board , "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions." Last modified 2008. http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/ap08_world_hist_frq.pdf.

The College Board , "AP World History Key Concepts ." Last modified November 02, 2009. Accessed May 2, 2012. https://www.taboracademy.org/ftpimages/445/download/Key_Concepts.pdf.

Evans , Hilary , Arild Gjerde, Jeroen Heijmans, and Bill Mallon. Sports Reference LLC, "SR/Olympic Sports Sybil Newall." http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/ne/sybil-newall-1.html.


[1] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008.
[2] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008.
[3] Richard Bulliet , Pamela Crossley , Daniel Headrick, Steven Hirsch, Lyman Johnson , and David Northrup, The Earth and Its Peoples , (Wadsworth, Cengage Learning , 2011), 965.
[4] The College Board , "AP World History Key Concepts ." Last modified November 02, 2009. Accessed May 2, 2012. https://www.taboracademy.org/ftpimages/445/download/Key_Concepts.pdf, 24.
[5] "AP World History Key Concepts " November 02, 2009, 24.
[6] "AP World History Key Concepts " November 02, 2009, 23.

[7] "AP World History Key Concepts " November 02, 2009, 23.
[8] Richard Bulliet , Pamela Crossley , Daniel Headrick, Steven Hirsch, Lyman Johnson , and David Northrup, The Earth and Its Peoples , (Wadsworth, Cengage Learning , 2011), 961.
[9] "AP World History Key Concepts " November 02, 2009, 24.
[10] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 4, document 3)
[11] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 4, document 4)
[12] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 4, document 5)
[13] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 5, document 6)
[14] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 3, document 2)
[15] Hilary Evans et al. SR/Olympic Sports Sybil Newall, 2012.
[16] The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, "Record Women's Participation ." Last modified August 18, 2008. Accessed May 2, 2012. http://en.beijing2008.cn/news/official/ioc/n214559789.shtml.
[17] "College Board Advanced Placement Program. AP World History 2008 Free-Response Questions" 2008. (page 5, document 8)
[18] The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.