I actually had the idea for this post last week. But the news that members of the Iranian soccer team wore green wristbands during their World Cup qualifier against South Korea to signal their support for opposition protests back home made it even more timely.
So the following is a list of the Top 5 all-time sporting events with international relations overtones. It's admittedly U.S.-centric, both in choice of matches and sports, meaning that if you're looking for cricket matches that changed the shape of global history, you'll have to look elsewhere. Rankings are based on a combination of drama, significance and personal knowledge (or lack thereof).
1) U.S. vs. USSR, 1980 Olympic hockey. Seriously, for any American sports fanatic who entered adolescence in the last, icy decade of the Cold War, there's no way around the Miracle on Ice. I still remember being at a pre-teen party with all of us crowded around the set, and the wild joy—among 12-year-olds, mind you—at the final seconds ticking off the clock. For context, this was back before Dream Teams, when Olympic athletes were still supposed to be amateurs. In sports that actually had professional leagues at the time, that meant, for the most part, American college kids playing against state-subsidized Soviet athletes in the prime of their careers. It's a testament to how cohesive this victory was with the Reagan-era narrative of American Renewal that I had assumed it had taken place in the months after Reagan's election. A quick Wiki-factcheck showed that it was, in fact, a bright spot of the Carter administration.