Politicians in ancient Greece were well acquainted with the alluring intersection between sport and politics. Alcibiades, an ambitious aristocrat, entered seven chariots in the 416 BCE Olympics, aware of the potential political benefits. He came first, second, and fourth, later citing this ‘splendid performance’ to the Athenian assembly while lobbying for a senior military appointment in the Peloponnesian War.
Since then, sport and politics have become even more intertwined. Sports of all kinds serve as potent tools of nationalism. Eric Hobsbawm famously wrote that ‘the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people’. The image-building potential of sporting mega-events, meanwhile, has enchanted national leaders from Hitler to Ronald Reagan, Paul Keating to Vladimir Putin.