Sport, Olympic Ideals, and Realities

Alan Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Olympic Games are the highest-profile multidiscipline sport events in human history. Their contemporary manifestation as a global media event has attracted the largest viewing figures for any sporting event; the London 2012 Olympic Games reportedly generated 3.6 billion viewers worldwide, with Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics coming a close second with 3.5 billion viewers. Only the FIFA Men’s World Cup has rivaled these figures. Blending historical data with contemporary evidence, this chapter (1) outlines the key issues underlying the crises and challenges faced by the IOC and the Olympics in a changing, volatile, and globalizing world since the organization’s inception in 1894; (2) evaluates and critiques theoretical and interpretive models that have been used to account for the survival of the Olympic phenomenon and its claimed ideals; and (3) examines contemporary debates concerning citizenship, participation, and the future of the Games as their existence has become increasingly questioned in the face of the realities of their overexpansion, excessive costs, vulnerability to corruption, and ethical myopia—and never more so than throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020–2021.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-C12.P100
JournalThe Oxford Handbook of Sport and Society
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022


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