Yes, it has become politicized. What it started at was an honorable Olympic tradition (in the citius-altius-fortius vein) that made competing more importand than winning (or so they'd have you belive). When World Champs started, the same policy was adopted, although it was quickly co-opted by the Nebiolo machine as a way to guarantee IAAF votes.
We've recently seen, I believe that Rogge has come out against "Olympic tourists" and may move to end the practice. If that happens, look for track shortly thereafter to get the same fate as swimming and end up with only two athletes per nation in each event as way to keep total Olympic numbers down.