The Olympic ideal is that the nations of the world come together in peace and harmony and athletic competition.

Of course, the real world is complicated.

World wars caused the Games to be canceled several times.

And at other times, the Games went on, but some of the countries that might have taken part decided to hold their own.


In the early days of the Soviet Union, the country staged its own competition, the Spartakiade, to show that Communist athletes were as good or better than those in what they considered the bourgeois capitalist Olympics.

By the 1950s, though, the USSR decided it was easier to prove this by competing against those same athletes in the actual Summer and Winter Games.

Back in 1936, some athletes and countries boycotted the actual Olympics, which were being held in Nazi Germany.

Instead, they headed to Barcelona for the People’s Olympiad, though that event didn’t take place at all because of the Spanish Civil War.

And in the 1960s, some developing countries, led by Indonesia, held GANEFO, the Games of the New Emerging Forces, with close to 51 participating nations, to highlight their athletes and their importance in world politics.

More recently, the US and its allies boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and instead held the Liberty Bell Classic in Philadelphia.

Four years later, when Communist countries opted out of the Los Angeles Olympics, they held the Friendship Games.

In each case there was some strong competition, but neither was quite the Olympic alternative they’d aimed to be.

As one official put it, “We can’t call this the alternative Games. There’s no alternative.”

Today is the birthday of the great Black scientist and inventor Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson.

Her discoveries helped lead to the invention of solar cells, touch-tone phones, caller ID and – a big one for those of us who are online – fiber-optic cables.

It’d be good to have some high-tech birthday cake in her honor,

…And Meanwhile In Philadelphia (Sports Illustrated)

Spartakiade: A Bolshevik alternative to the Olympics (The Charnel House)

Counter Olympics (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

GANEFO I Sports and Politics in Djakarta (RAND Corporation)

Boycott nations will stage own games (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Google News)

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (

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Photo by Dean Hochman via Flickr/Creative Commons