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The Olympic Games, the Soviet Sports Bureaucracy, and the Cold War

Red Sport, Red Tape

Jenifer Parks

Hardback
eBook
Using previously inaccessible archival documents, this study provides a longitudinal investigation of the middle levels of Soviet bureaucracy responsible for overseeing Olympic Sport during the Cold War. Spanning the period from the USSR’s Olympic debut in 1952 through the 1980 Games held in Moscow, this book argues that behind the high-profile performances of Soviet elite athletes, a legion of sports administrators worked within international sports organizations and the Soviet party-state to increase Soviet chances of success and make Soviet representatives a respected voice in international sports. Soviet officials helped expand the Olympic movement, increasing the participation of women, developing nations, and socialist bloc countries, while achieving Soviet political and diplomatic aims. Soviet representatives, over the course of only a few decades, became a dominant and respected voice within international sports circles, actively promoting Olympic ideals abroad even as they transformed those ideals to better align with Soviet goals. In the process, Soviet sports contributed to the evolution of Olympic sport, integrating the Soviet Union into an emerging global culture, and contributing to transformations within the Soviet Union. Back home in the USSR, the Sports Committee's leading personalities represented a new kind of Soviet bureaucrat, who emerged in the late years of Stalinism and contributed to the professionalization of party-state apparatus. Standing at the intersection between state and society, between Soviet political goals and their execution, and between Olympic sport and Communist ideology, mid-level Soviet sports administrators demonstrated ideological drive, political savvy, and professional pragmatism, providing the impetus, expertise, and experience to transform broad ideological constructs into specific policies and procedures in the Soviet Union and realize Soviet propaganda and foreign policy goals in international and Olympic sports. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 232Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-4118-3 • Hardback • December 2016 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-4985-4119-0 • eBook • December 2016 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
Jenifer Parks is associate professor of history at Rocky Mountain College.
Chapter 1: Verbal Gymnastics: The Soviet Union Enters the Olympic Movement
Chapter 2: Leveling the Playing Field: Soviet Sports Administrators Abroad and International Sports Exchanges under Khrushchev, 1953–1964
Chapter 3: Getting Things Done: Soviet Bureaucrats' Expanding Role in the IOC and Moscow's Bid to Host the Games
Chapter 4: "An Exemplary Communist City”: Preparing Moscow for the 1980 Olympic Games
Chapter 5: A Job Well Done?: Welcoming the World to the 1980 Moscow Olympiad
In tracing the potholed road from the Soviet Union’s entrance into the Olympic Movement in the early 1950s to the XXII Olympiad in Moscow in 1980, Jenifer Parks’s landmark book inserts the Olympic Movement into the historiography of the Cold War. Spotlighting the crucial role played by the Soviet Sports Committee in negotiating the clash between Olympic idealism and Cold War rivalries, she offers an intimate and confident look at how Soviet participation in the Games indelibly changed the shape of international sports and transformed the Soviet system by further integrating it into a global culture.
Donald J. Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


In this highly granular account based on Soviet-era archives, Jenifer Parks has taken us into the workings of the Soviet Union's famed State Sports Committee. In doing this, she examines the work of middle-level officials with both political leaders and their complex and extensive athletic constituencies of coaches, players, doctors, journalists, and the public. This is history neither from the top down nor the bottom up, but from the middle out.
Robert Edelman, University of California, San Diego


Jenifer Parks has extensively consulted Russian and international archives and provides in this study an excellent examination of the relevant international literature on the history of global sports, the Cold War, and Soviet power politics. She reconstructs in exacting detail just how the Soviet Sports Committee struggled for recognition with the rival power apparatuses and asserted itself over against ideological misgivings. What the networks of its leading figures achieved in the short span of a few years changed the country and its international image fundamentally. Parks creates a fascinating narrative out of the inconspicuous rise of a marginal committee and shows how sports entered the arena of high politics and statecraft, beguiling even dictators. She shows convincingly and vividly what informal relations in a bureaucratic state were able to accomplish, but a country where economic and social realities were to decide what benefits the Olympic dream ultimately generated.
Nikolaus Katzer, German Historical Institute, Moscow


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