Cold War Sport in Global Context

AHA Session 121
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Room 104 (Hynes Convention Center)
Robert Edelman, University of California at San Diego
Barbara Keys, University of Melbourne

Session Abstract

This session features some emerging work in the history of sport in order to illuminate the political, social and cultural issues that were contested during the Cold War. Not merely a conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, or even between capitalism/democracy and communism, the Cold War was a far-reaching combination of negotiations and conflicts. Nations and peoples sought effective ways of promoting their political, social and economic development; and elites sought ways to confer legitimacy on their position in their societies while navigating such concerns.  Sport was uniquely positioned between high politics and diplomacy on the one hand, and the television screens and back pages of newspapers consumed across the social spectrum in countries around the world on the other. As an endeavor in which results could be easily measured and quickly understood, and in which connections and rivalries flourished across national borders, sport assumed arguably more significance for governments and societies in this period than at any other stage in its history. Those governments, however, were forced to interact with non-governmental bodies (such as the Olympic Movement) which were gaining continually in power and exerting often unpredictable influence on the world sphere. The study of sport, therefore, is particularly useful in making sense of both the aspirations of ordinary people and the efforts of the political and sporting elites that put on the spectacle for them to watch and follow. 
The papers in this panel will consider a range of topics and issues during the Cold War: Sandra Collins considers the impact of a dispute over participation in the 1962 Asian Games by athletes from Nationalist China and Israel on relations among Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and the International Olympic Committee.  Christopher Young looks at efforts by East and West Germany to exploit the glamour and reach of the Munich Games, both to influence local publics negotiating their own nation’s identity in the era of Ostpolitik and nations large and small around the world in their struggle for political recognition.  John Soares looks at ice hockey diplomacy, the Soviet-Canadian rivalry, US-Canadian tensions, and efforts by Moscow and Ottawa to use the sport to build cultural and diplomatic connections, especially with neutral Sweden and strategically vital Japan.  Commentary will be offered by Barbara Keys, who has followed up her prize-winning book Globalizing Sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s which considered the uses and impact of sport in the pre-World War II period with new work on the Cold War.
This panel offers a geographic scope unusually broad in Cold War scholarship.  As such, the combination of geographic areas and methodological approaches develops interesting new perspectives and will deepen our understanding of the complex international and transnational interactions of the Cold War period.  This panel also will demonstrate the importance of an emerging area of historical inquiry – sport – that has much to offer our field.

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