Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Michael Heine


Avery Brundage became President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1952, ready to lead the IOC according to the vision of its modern founder, Pierre de Coubertin. One of the IOC’s challenges during Brundage’s tenure as President involved the participation of South Africa in the Olympic Movement and Olympic Games. Racial discrimination and segregation, known as apartheid, was rampant in South Africa because of governmental laws and policies. These discriminatory practices, which were ingrained in the South African National Olympic Committee (SANOC), conflicted with principles laid down in the Olympic Charter, especially Article 1 forbidding racial discrimination. Due to pressure from the international community, the IOC opposed apartheid by suspending South Africa from the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games through IOC policy and procedure, which eventually led to South Africa’s expulsion from the IOC, Olympic Games, and Olympic Movement in 1970.

This dissertation explored the debates and correspondence of important actors within the IOC and the Olympic Movement from 1955 to 1968, in the context of the organization's discussion of South Africa's controversial place in the Olympic Movement and Olympic Games. A reconstructionist approach was adopted to examine the relationship between the IOC and SANOC, by investigating specifically the correspondence of key actors in a network of exchanges that centred on Brundage and the IOC. Perspectives and strategies of the actors in this network were traced. The analysis identified three ‘dominant voices’ in this debate: (1) South African Olympic affiliates; (2) domestic resistance; and (3) a concerned international sport community. Furthermore, three factors that guided the decision-making of the IOC when determining South Africa’s participation in the Olympic Games emerged: (1) IOC rules and regulations; (2) IOC structure and protocol; and, (3) the IOC’s stance to remain a neutral party in domestic political issues. This in-depth investigation into the thinking of these central and influential actors contributes a new dimension to our understanding of the IOC’s approach to the South African controversy, and the events leading to South Africa’s expulsion.