The rivalry of the nations
Tracing back to the history of the modern Olympic Games one sees that both the ceremonies (opening and closing ceremonies, medal presentation ceremonies) and the terms and conditions of participation have not always been the same. On the contrary, both the ceremonies of the Olympic Games and the rules that bear on participation have been the result of processes that date back to the 1908 London Olympics progressively developing over the following organizations, especially those of the interwar period. This was a time when nationalistic ideology prevailed as the unquestioned way of thinking, but also as a universal model of political constitution (nation-state). This model incarnated a type of political geography according to which the world consisted of different nations and each one had (or should have) its own independent state. In the context of these developments, the gradual laying down of the conditions of participation and the creation of the Olympic ceremonies, as well as the standardization of the sports rules in the first decades of the 20th century formed the "character" of the Games as the major meeting of nations in the field of sport.
Participation in the first three Olympic organizations (Athens 1896, Paris 1900, and Saint Louis 1904) was individual, in the sense that entries were examined separately by the organizing committee. However, this practice changed during the London Olympics and the national sports committees would thenceforward designate the participant athletes to the organizers. For the first time there was a maximum number of athletes in each national delegation that could participate in each contest. In addition, it was the first time that during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games the delegations, headed by a carrier of the flag, paraded by nation. This development, which designated officially the Olympic Games as a "sports meeting of the nations", favoured the transformation of the Olympic Games into a privileged field of expression of the "rivalry among nations". At the same time, there was a change in the meanings that accompanied the victories of each nation's sports representatives, the effort of whom reflected on the prestige of their country and the national pride of their fellow countrymen.
It is not a coincidence that in the Olympic Games of 1908 the parade was the cause of the first political incident in the history of the Olympic Games, when the Irish-American carrier of the flag of the US team refused to pay honours to the royal family. Neither is it a coincidence that for the first time in the same Games there were complaints (by the USA and France, for example) for the partiality of the judges and umpires either in favour of or against certain athletes on the criterion of their nationality. At the same time, the flag, the name and the anthem of each team constituted issues of confrontation and negotiation with the IOC. It is characteristic that in the Olympics of 1908 the IOC accepted Hungary and Bohemia as separate teams, despite the fact that they were not independent states, but parts of Austria-Hungary. A similar case was that of Finland, which had not won its independence from Russia yet.
Ever since, the rivalry of nations has accompanied every Olympic organization on the occasion of traditional or conjunctural confrontations among the nations-states. In a sense, the Olympic Games constitute the major field of pacific expression of the "rivalry of the nations" during a century that was marked, among other things, by the universal adoption of the model nation-state but also by the experience of two world wars and innumerable regional conflicts. The most characteristic expression of the rivalry of nations in the Olympic context is the list of medal distribution by country. These data have always been the most popular statistical information of every Olympic organization. Therefore, although the IOC does not recognize it officially, it provides it on its official website. The refusal of the IOC to recognize the ranking list goes back to the emphasis given to it during the Cold War, when the USA and the Soviet Union attempted to overpower one another in the number of medals.