International Journal’s weblog

July 31, 2008

IJ Classic article: Allen Guttmann – The Cold War and the Olympics

Filed under: Uncategorized — internationaljournal @ 4:18 pm

From 1952 to 1988, from the games held at Helsinki to those
just completed in Seoul, one of the most dramatic aspects of
the modern Olympics has been the sports rivalry between the
United States and the Soviet Union. Propagandists on both sides
of the Iron Curtain have presented the competition between
Russian and American athletes as a portentous symbolic strug-
gle between two ideological systems. As the games have become
increasingly important in the political sphere, the success or
failure of the Olympic team, as measured in the unofficial medal
counts, has often overshadowed the performances of the men
and women who actually ran, jumped, threw, wrestled, rode,
and otherwise displayed their physical skills. President Carter’s
198o decision to use an Olympic boycott as a diplomatic weapon
ended, or ought to have ended, the naive notion that the games
might somehow be insulated from the international power
struggle. The Soviet Union’s 1984 reprisal should not have
surprised anyone.

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