Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The father of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, envisaged international athletic exchange as the "free trade of the future." No nation would regulate this trade to its political advantage. The Olympic Games, as well as other international political arenas, would be unpolluted by political currents. To a remarkable extent, considering the course of twentieth century history, these aspirations have been met. But athletic exchange, like other forms of human interaction, nevertheless remains exposed to sovereign intervention; a measure of politics is inevitable in any transnational activity, whether in the United Nations or a global convention of medieval musicologists. Effective management of any transnational human activity is, therefore, a matter of regulating rather than eliminating political intervention. Within the nation-state system, such regulation depends heavily upon harmonious laws and policies of participating governments.

National sports laws and policies vary in scope and kind. Governmental support of athletic programs and exchange is all but universal, ranging from the employment by Scandinavian governments of cross-country skiing competitors and border guards to the massive programs of national aggrandizement exemplified by those of the People's Republic of China and East Germany. The "college-bonus" system of support is used in the United States, and the "cash-bonus" and pervasive military service system is employed by the Soviet Union. Rule 26 of the Olympic Games, which governs the important question of "amateur" status, was recently reformed after years of controversy to respond to the trend away from rigid amateurism. Rewritten Rule 26, and more particularly its implementing by-laws, offers greater opportunity for governmental assistance to amateur Olympic aspirants. Such governmental support presupposes the efficacy of keeping the home folks happy while impressing one's neighbors by setting a world record on some foreign athletic track. After all, the theory goes, athletic competition offers a relatively inexpensive and humane way of flexing the national muscles; presumably, athletic prowess serves the national interest.