Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Are the Olympics a good way to decrease prejudice?
By Stephanie Nelson

As many of you know, the opening ceremony of the 2010 winter Olympics was held Friday February 12th in Vancouver Canada. While watching this ceremony I began to wonder whether or not the Olympics provide a good way for people to become more accepting of diversity. This ancient tradition at least brings diverse people together geographically. Over 3 billion people from 160 different countries watched this year’s opening ceremony. 96 countries were represented in the ceremony itself ( This week in class we have been learning about theory. I began to wonder whether a theory would support the idea of the Olympics helping to promote diversity. Gordon Allport’s Contact theory (as described in Marsiglia & Kulis, 2010) seemed like a good place to start. Contact theory has 5 main criteria:
1. Individuals interacting with one another must be of equal status.
2. They must be cooperatively pursuing common goals.
3. They must meet long enough to see each other’s common humanity.
4. Contact has to be sanctioned by an institution that is accepted by everybody.
5. There must be a potential for friendship between individuals.
At first glance it seemed as though the Olympics were the exact opposite of this. Athletes and fans from different countries compete against each other. Stereotypes of who is best at each sport may be reinforced and lead to no new understandings of different people. When I continued to think about it however, I saw a possibility for contact theory to apply. The Olympic Games require a vast amount of planning and cooperation between countries. During this time there is plenty of opportunity for diverse people to get to know and respect each other. There is also a good chance that just being at the Olympics together will provide similar opportunities for people to work together. Athletes and spectators alike have plenty of opportunities for contact with people different from themselves. Even the opening flag ceremony gives people a chance to learn a little more about different cultures. Although this may not always be the case, I think the Olympics provide a great atmosphere for people from different backgrounds to know each other and decrease their prejudice.

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2010). Diversity, oppression, and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.

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