The Olympic Charter states one of the fundamental principles of Olympism is that “sports organizations within the Olympic Movement shall apply political neutrality.” In reality, the Olympics and politics are inseparable — and a movement in Asia almost 60 years ago has had a lasting impact on how the Olympics have become heavily politicized.

In the 1960s, some 36 countries embraced a new counter-Olympics: GANEFO, the Games of the New Emerging Forces. GANEFO formed to challenge the International Olympic Committee, “a tool of the imperialists and colonialists,” in the words of then Indonesian president Sukarno. After GANEFO, the IOC was forced to accept that sports were often political. There was no going back.

GANEFO presented the IOC with an unprecedented challenge. “Sports cannot be separated from politics,” Sukarno declared. IOC President Avery Brundage deplored this “challenge to all international…

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