With the knowledge that the entire world is watching, some who attend, compete at and observe the Olympics take the opportunity to communicate social and political messages.
Read on to learn more about Olympic protests, signs of solidarity and other political and social goings on over the years.
The 1906 Games in Athens would be the first time the world would see a modern protest as Irish track and field star Peter O'Connor, protests being considered a British competitor, he climbed up the Olympic flagpole with an Irish flag.
Just two years after the end of World War I and end of the 1918 global flu pandemic, Antwerp hosted the 1920 Games.
The Games were used as a way to heal and focus on remembering those killed and moving forward.
Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and the then-Ottoman Empire were not invited to attend due to their involvement in World War I.
The newly formed Soviet Union boycotted the games.
As Hitler's control over Europe was gaining steam, Berlin hosted the 1936 Games which would be forever known as "The Nazi Olympics."
Hitler’s ministry of propaganda spread the Nazi leader's theory of racial supremacy. that those of blond hair and blue eyes known as the Aryan race were superior beings in every way.
Despite Germany winning the most medals at their own Olympics, they are upset in the track and field competitions as Black American Jesse Owens wins four gold medals and becomes the fastest man on the planet, knocking down Hitler's white supremacy theory. In total, Black American athletes would earn fourteen medals.
Japan Pulls Out
In 1937, Tokyo was awarded host duties of the 1940 Games but a year later, forfeited the right to host after they called to postpone the Games as they were entering war with China.
However, both the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were canceled due to World War II.
London hosts the 1948 Games leading to the Soviet Union boycotting as tensions rise at the start of the Cold War among the West and East.
Japan and Germany are not invited due to their axis involvement in World War II.
Czechoslovak gymnast Marie Provaznikova becomes the first athlete to defect from a communist country during the Olympics.
The 1956 Melbourne Games would be marked by boycotts and protests as China refused to attend due to the IOC allowing Taiwan to compete as a sovereign state.
The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland refused to support athletes from Hungary following the Soviet invasion in the Eastern European nation, leading to an all-out brawl among the Hungarian and Soviet water polo squads.
Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon also boycotted to protest the invasion of Egypt by France, Israel and the United Kingdom over Cairo’s nationalization of the Suez Canal.
Taiwan Protests 1960 Games
Taiwan protested the 1960 Games in Rome because the IOC forced its athletes to compete under the name Formosa, instead of the Republic of China. During the opening ceremony, Taiwan’s athletes entered Rome's fabled Stadio Olympico with no name on their uniforms and held up signs that read "Under Protest."
Ali Throws Away Medal
Muhammad Ali, then-known as Cassius Clay, was so angered by racism in America following the 1960 Games in Rome, he took his gold medal and reportedly threw it away in a river in protest.
The iconic boxer, then just 18, thought that by winning gold at the Olympics, racial tensions would ease and he would be seen as an equal for winning such a high award for his country. However, segregated America had not done what the boxer wished. He got rid of his medal, according to those around him.
After spending billions to repair Japan following World War II, the Japanese government used their moment to reemerge into society at the 1964 Games.
As Japan stressed and pushed for peace, they selected student Yoshinori Sakai to be the final torchbearer and light the Olympic caldron. Sakai was born on the day that the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
The IOC banned apartheid South Africa from the Olympics due to the country's all-white Olympic committee refusing to denounce segregation in sports. South Africa would be excluded from the games for the next two decades. The country would return in the late '90s following the election of Nelson Mandela, who became the nation's first democratically-elected and Black president.
The Mexico Games in 1968 were happening at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
Just six months after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, used their moment on the Olympic podium after wining gold and bronze medals, respectively, and raised their hands in the Black power salute on the podium while the national anthem played.
The two athletes were kicked off the team and sent home for their actions.
In Solidarity With John Carlos and Tommie Smith
To stand in solidarity with John Carlos and Tommie Smith for the remainder of the '68 Olympics, American sprinters Lee Evans, Larry James and Ronald Freeman wore black berets.
The Mexico Games were marked by protests seen around the world.
Věra Čáslavská, a Czechslovak gymnast who won four gold medals and two silver, took a stance against the Soviet regime. When she approached the podium to receive her medals, she turned her back to the Soviet anthem in response to the USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia just months before the Games.
Čáslavská would be punished soon after the Games. Čáslavská was forced to retire and was prohibited from living a normal life for the next two decades. She worked as a cleaner and was barred from coaching, according to Time. She was welcomed back into the gymnastic world in the early 1990s.
Members of the terrorist organization Black September raided the Olympic village at Munich during the 1972 Games and held Israeli athletes as hostages.
The siege was seen around the world and members of the group would appear on the balcony of the apartment where they were keeping the hostages.
Black September, a militant faction of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party, demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for the nine athletes they held hostage. After Israel refused, a botched rescue attempt by German officials followed.
In a shootout between authorities and Black September members at a Munich airport, all of the athletes and five terrorists were killed.
Despite the massacre, the Games continued.
In 1972, the United States men's basketball team squared off against the USSR in a gold medal match. The Americans claimed a poor refereeing result cost them the match in the final seconds, leading to a Soviet Union victory. To this day, the members of the 1972 men's team have never collected their silver medal and refused to stand on the podium during the ceremony.
Just as Montreal was gearing up to host the 1976 summer Games, more than 20 African nations boycotted at the last minute due to New Zealand's participation.
Many across Africa were outraged because New Zealand's rugby team played in racially-segregated South Africa, which was barred from all international sporting events like the Olympics and both soccer and ruby World Cups.
Taiwan also boycotted the Games after it was denied the right to compete as the Republic of China.
As tensions amid America and Russia amid the ongoing Cold War reached new heights in the early 1980s, U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced that the country would boycott the Moscow 1980 Games. The U.S. did not send a single athlete or representative.
As Los Angeles hosted the Summer Games in '84, Russia retaliated by boycotting the Olympics just as America did when Moscow hosted four years prior.
Five years after the Games, the Cold War would come to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
After the IOC chose Seoul, South Korea, as the host of the 1988 Summer Games, North Korea refused to participate because they asked to have a co-host bid, which was rejected.
Following North Korea's boycott, Cuba and Nicaragua also refused to attend the Games in a show of solidarity.
In 1992, Michael Jordan was the most popular athlete on the planet. He was also the most lucrative.
Jordan, who was on USA Basketball's "Dream Team" for the 1992 Barcelona Games, would take home gold but during the medal ceremony, Jordan, who was sponsored by Nike, refused to wear the Reebok-sponsored jacket on the podium.
As shown in the acclaimed 2020 documentary, "The Last Dance," U.S. Olympic officials insisted he wore the jacket and be a team player. Jordan would wear the jacket during the medal ceremony, but would cover up the Reebok logo with the American flag draped over his shoulder.
Just as the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were underway, a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park, killing two people and injuring more than 100. Officials determined the games would continue on in spite of the tragedy.
The Arrest of the Atlanta Bomber
It took almost seven years for American national Eric Rudolph to be arrested. He was busted in 2003 and two years later, he pleaded guilty to being behind the bombing at Olympic park. He claimed he did it as an a way to express antigovernment, anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.
Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Games and reconciled with its past treatment of the nation's indigenous people.
During those Games, Cathy Freeman of the Kuku Yalanji people, became the first Indigenous Australian to earn a medal in an individual Olympic event.
She was also chosen to light the Olympic flame in Sydney.
During the 2004 Athens Games, Iranian world judo champion Arash Miresemaeili refused to fight Israeli judoka Ehud Vaks.
“Although I have trained for months and was in good shape, I refused to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine and I do not feel upset at all,” Miresmaeili told the news agency IRNA at the time.
Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has refused to recognize Israel and has praised athletes who boycott competitions with Israelis, Time magazine reported.
Sochi Boycott From Western Leaders
Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi but Western countries called for a boycott due to a range of human rights issues in the country, including anti-LGBTQ+ laws observed and enforced in the country.
Several world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, did not attend the opening ceremony.
Some looked at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang as an opportunity to ease tensions between South Korea and North Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in used the winter games to boost inter-Korean ties with athletes from North and South Korea marching together during the opening ceremony, waving white flags that show the Korean Peninsula and unity.
In 2016, the Olympics allowed refugees to compete for the first time at the Rio Games in Brazil. The athletes fled their home countries, but still wanted the chance to compete. The decision to create such a team came as a record number of refugees from Africa and the Middle East seeking political asylum arrived in Europe.
Ban on Russian Federation
After years of investigations, in 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from the Olympics and other international sports competitions for four years after evidence emerged that Russian authorities manipulated drug-testing data to cover up a lengthy state-sponsored doping scheme.
Russian athletes were still allowed to compete but not represent their country. They could compete on what was known as a "neutral team" with no national flag.
The summer games in Tokyo were supposed to take place in 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were pushed a full year.
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles shocked the world when she withdrew from the Tokyo summer games in 2021 but brought a much-needed conversation about mental health to the global stage.
On social media for the first time since announcing her withdrawal from individual and all-around gymnastic events at the Tokyo Olympics, Biles thanked those who have sent messages of support, saying "it has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments."
In an early competition, she lost her mental bearings in mid-air and experienced the "twisties," she explained — both of which could have seriously injured her.
The "twisties" is a gymnastic term referring to a dreaded experience that can happen while executing elaborate twists in midair while upside down. Muscle memory evaporates and the athlete becomes disoriented while simultaneously trying to mentally execute every movement needed to land.
Laurel Hubbard, who represents New Zealand, made history as the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games after she lifted 628 pounds in two lifts to qualify for her first Olympic Games at Tokyo 2021.
Hubbard, 43, competed in the women's super-heavyweight 87-kg weightlifting category on Aug. 2. She previously won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and a gold medal in 2019 at the Pacific Games in Samoa.
"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," Hubbard said in a statement. "The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”
In December 2021, the U.S. government announced that no official or President Joe Biden himself would attend the 2022 Olympic games in Beijing in what authorities called a diplomatic boycott.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that sending representation would "treat these games as business as usual," in the face of China's "egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang," and America "simply can't do that."
"As the president has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans," Psaki said. "We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights, and we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond."
The White House's decision to boycott the February games is meant to reflect its displeasure over human rights abuses in China.
Despite Russia's four-year ban from competing as a country at the Olympics still being in place, Russian President Vladmir Putin was at the opening ceremonies in Beijing to cheer on Russian competitors. Athletes from the country are still able to compete, but not represent their country in an official capacity.
Putin's appearance came as tensions between his country and Ukraine escalate.