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PhD Topic: New Zealand and the Olympic Games


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Hello all.

I wanted to put it out there on this forum that I am about to start my PhD in Political Science on New Zealand and the Olympic Games. Below is an outline of my topic that I think a few of you will be interested in:

Politics and sport don’t mix – or do they? : An investigation into how New Zealand’s participation in the Olympic Games has contributed to its national identity

Background and Overview of topic

I would like to investigate how New Zealand’s participation in the Olympic Games has contributed to its national identity. Sport and nationalism are arguably two of the most emotional issues in the modern world. Both inspire intense devotion and often we see the best and worst of nationalism portrayed during the Olympic Games. Nationalism has been widely recognised as a political doctrine since the mid nineteenth century and in many respects nationalism has developed into the most successful and compelling of political creeds, helping to shape and reshape history in many parts of the world for over 200 years.

Part One

Part One of this thesis will discuss key theories and ideas related to Nationalism, State Legitimacy, National Identity and discuss how sport and more specifically the Olympic Games can unite a nation. It is often argued that politics and sport don’t mix, but when it comes to the Olympic Games politics is generally at the centre of events.

Part Two

Part two will then discuss New Zealand’s Olympic odyssey and outline its history of participation in the Olympic Games. This part will be broken into four chapters with a specific case study on New Zealand’s participation at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games that were hijacked by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party and used for propaganda purposes.

Part Three

Part three will specifically focus on the most turbulent time for New Zealand and the Olympic Movement from 1976-1984 and also analyse other nation’s responses to the Olympic boycotts. This thesis will focus on the responses of Australia, Canada and Great Britain to the boycotts of 1976, 1980 and 1984.

In 1976, 25 African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics due to the All Blacks touring apartheid South Africa. South Africa had been expelled from the Olympic Movement in 1968 due to their political regime of apartheid. New Zealand continued to compete in those games and was not expelled, despite the walkout of African nations. It raises interesting questions why the International Olympic Committee would permit African countries to boycott the games, costing Montreal Olympic organisers millions of dollars to keep the New Zealand team the Games. There are rumours as to why this occurred which included the fact New Zealand was sponsored by Adidas and they were bankrolling the Olympic Movement at that time.

In 1980 New Zealand boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow and followed the United States in doing so after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. At the same time that the boycott was announced by the New Zealand Government, New Zealand were exporting large quantities of mutton to the Soviet Union and trade between the two countries was expanding. Despite the boycott four New Zealand athletes defied the Government boycott and competed in the 1980 Olympics. This is despite Prime Minister Robert Muldoon putting a huge pressure on the New Zealand Olympic Committee to boycott.

Four years later the games were held in Los Angeles and this time the Soviet Union and much of the Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the games in retaliation to the 1980 Untied States led boycott. New Zealand however would compete at those games, winning 11 medals, including a record eight gold.

Robert Muldoon held a vice like grip over New Zealand as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance from 1975-1984. Muldoon almost unilaterally controlled New Zealand for nearly a decade and his leadership reached all the way onto the sports field with New Zealand boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games and almost crippling the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Perhaps the most divisive decision of his tenure as Prime Minister was the 1981 Springbok tour which almost ripped New Zealand apart. What is ironic during his tenure as Prime Minister is that Muldoon announced that politics and sport don’t mix and allowed the 1981 Springbok tour to take place, amongst widespread protests across New Zealand, of which has not been seen before or since in New Zealand. The 1981 Springbok rugby tour came just after Muldoon indicated that politics and sport do mix and forced the New Zealand Olympic Committee to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Part Four

Finally part four will specifically analyse how New Zealanders view the Olympic Games and how it has contributed to New Zealand’s national identity. I am proposing completing a survey of the New Zealand public.

I am also visiting the IOC in September this year for a week of study. I am very excited about that.

If anyone has any ideas or would like to talk about this topic in greater detail, PM me or leave a message here. I would be interested i hearing your thoughts on this topic.

Cheers

Micheal

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Saw you'd interviewed John McBeth and Keith Quinn, that must have been awesome. :D

Yea mate it was awesome. They are legends and more than happy to help. They have some amazing stories!

I have quite a number of other interviews with athletes and commentators/reporters lined up as well.

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Wow, that is an amazing topic for PhD, Micheal!

You said that Part One will be about "how New Zealand’s participation in the Olympic Games has contributed to its national identity" - will you include in this part questions like:

- why didn't New Zealand start with an own team in London 1908 and Stockholm 1912, but together with Australia as Australasia (especially since NZ decided not to join the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 I wonder why they participated together in 1908 (one year after NZ became a Dominion))?

- did have WWI an impact on the decision that NZ started with an own team in Antwerpen 1920?

- when did the first New Zealander of Maori decent participate at Olympic Games?

- were the charters of the sport clubs/sport federation of NZ open for everyone right from the start or were there changes? And if they were changes when?

Edited by Citius Altius Fortius
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Also to answer the ultimate question. Could NZ be able to host a Summer Olympics? (Later in the century or as part of a bicentennial celebration? )

NZ, when it sets it's sights on an event, can easily pull it of with a sense of national pride.

Definitely put me down for a copy of your publication.

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What about the spat between Dames Kiri T. and Edna E. as to who would be the sole diva performing at the 2000 Paralympics...when it was actually fighting over Russell Watson??

...as per usual, Tony Es grandfather has to make a smart mouth comment...

:) But on the serious side...also the mindset of our younger MPs in Parliament need to be investigated. (not interested in 'boomer plus' as their minds are usually set to negative what I've seen over the years) Since you have unbelievably privileged access to them, what about the opinions of them towards funding and the future? For a country that has the third highest obesity levels in the OECD the Olympics has potential to combat this as part of the Health initiative and social development. The Prime Minister, if you can grab him, would be an enthusiastic interview, he understands money and what it would take to get there.

What a legacy to be remembered for.

Edited by Alexjc
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What about the spat between Dames Kiri T. and Edna E. as to who would be the sole diva performing at the 2000 Paralympics...when it was actually fighting over Russell Watson??

haha lol... Na I dont think so

...as per usual, Tony Es grandfather has to make a smart mouth comment...

:) But on the serious side...also the mindset of our younger MPs in Parliament need to be investigated. (not interested in 'boomer plus' as their minds are usually set to negative what I've seen over the years) Since you have unbelievably privileged access to them, what about the opinions of them towards funding and the future? For a country that has the third highest obesity levels in the OECD the Olympics has potential to combat this as part of the Health initiative and social development. The Prime Minister, if you can grab him, would be an enthusiastic interview, he understands money and what it would take to get there.

What a legacy to be remembered for.

I am going to be looking at the funding side of things as well. Yes will hope to interview some MP's but not sure who yet.

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...Robert Muldoon held a vice like grip over New Zealand as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance from 1975-1984. Muldoon almost unilaterally controlled New Zealand for nearly a decade and his leadership reached all the way onto the sports field with New Zealand boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games and almost crippling the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Perhaps the most divisive decision of his tenure as Prime Minister was the 1981 Springbok tour which almost ripped New Zealand apart. What is ironic during his tenure as Prime Minister is that Muldoon announced that politics and sport don’t mix and allowed the 1981 Springbok tour to take place, amongst widespread protests across New Zealand, of which has not been seen before or since in New Zealand. The 1981 Springbok rugby tour came just after Muldoon indicated that politics and sport do mix and forced the New Zealand Olympic Committee to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Micheal

The impact of the "Taniwha's" reign still has an effect on NZ today. In sports, and especially Rugby, it's a permanent scar...Although young at the time, I saw what the Springbok tour did. 1984, for most Gen Xers is when we first experienced an Olympics...Such a welcome relief. Throughout the years animosity towards those before us had the glory days pre 1976 abounded. Yes we had our heros but 25 years of austerity (75-00) as country changed from Socialism to a champion Neo Liberal society does have an effect. It resulted in the most embarrassing NZ Olympic result ever in 2000, a games that was right on our doorstep. NZ got its sports mojo back after the Americas Cup tenure, a desire to pick itself up after a double knock back in 03, losing the cup and losing joint hosted rights for RWC03. An enthusiastic sports minister finally managed to ballance a good funding program that has carried on to now...The moment needs to be maintained. At the moment NZ has a reasonably popular government comming to the end of it's second term having maintained good sports funding levels during trying times. This funding does need to grow, if at least to maintain the cost of inflation.

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The impact of the "Taniwha's" reign still has an effect on NZ today. In sports, and especially Rugby, it's a permanent scar...Although young at the time, I saw what the Springbok tour did. 1984, for most Gen Xers is when we first experienced an Olympics...Such a welcome relief. Throughout the years animosity towards those before us had the glory days pre 1976 abounded. Yes we had our heros but 25 years of austerity (75-00) as country changed from Socialism to a champion Neo Liberal society does have an effect. It resulted in the most embarrassing NZ Olympic result ever in 2000, a games that was right on our doorstep. NZ got its sports mojo back after the Americas Cup tenure, a desire to pick itself up after a double knock back in 03, losing the cup and losing joint hosted rights for RWC03. An enthusiastic sports minister finally managed to ballance a good funding program that has carried on to now...The moment needs to be maintained. At the moment NZ has a reasonably popular government comming to the end of it's second term having maintained good sports funding levels during trying times. This funding does need to grow, if at least to maintain the cost of inflation.

Yes good points. 2000 games was a disaster! It took probably another 5-7 years to get sport moving in the right direction in NZ. Yes I completely agree that funding needs to grow!

I have a very interesting article looking at the 2000 Olympics and NZ and Canadas performance and how the public responded to the disappointing results.. If you are interested I can send it to you.

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Politically the lowest point in NZ's Olympic history would be the period 1976-80.

Although 76 is well known, in 1980 the real reason for Muldoon's rather nasty attitude towards our Olympians when the NZOC was so heavied into boycotting the Moscow games has never been discussed. Imagine training for four years and then told you could go but don't expect your job to come back to...especially if you work in a govt department. This man was a monster...and he is on to his third gravestone because of it.

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Yes I completely agree. I have just read some of the debates in Parliamentary Hansard about Muldoon Threatening Public Servants would have no job to come back to if they went to Moscow. He really has a lot to answer for, not only in this sphere, but generally with his dictatorial leadership stance.

Did you get my email with that article?

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Yes I completely agree. I have just read some of the debates in Parliamentary Hansard about Muldoon Threatening Public Servants would have no job to come back to if they went to Moscow. He really has a lot to answer for, not only in this sphere, but generally with his dictatorial leadership stance.

Did you get my email with that article?

Yes I did Warren, thanks...It's an amazing paper and a slow digest, still havent got to half way. Keep having to refer to books as a note kicker.

We are comming up to 30 years in July since he (Muldoon) was toppled in a snap election coup set off by a gutsy woman MP who had the nads to stand up to him. His era does stand like an enormous concrete block barrier that we have no choice but to climb over when discussing sports history of the nation (along with everything else). The next National govt disowned him so quickly the moment they got into power he took the hint and vacated his backbench seat shortly after.

Another lean to take is the Babyboomer level of thinking, it was sort of their era that was slammed into that concrete barrier for sports heros. It left them with a rather selfish attitude to sports funding. Kirk gave them Chch 74, they partied last hurrah hard for LA 84 then said stuff it for Gen X. Only around Beijing did NZs sporting prowess return, and that's Gen Y.

Interesting in the report says of that long ancient problem that all men have of failure is questioning virility, psychological impact and who really is responsible in the end.

Edited by Alexjc
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