Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cold War Games

On my Family Connections blog I have written a number of posts on the Olympic Games held in Melbourne 1956. This event played an important part in my childhood as my father was a sports journalist on the Argus newspaper and also a member of the Publicity Committee for the Games.

Cold War Games by Harry Blutstein provides background information about events that threatened the staging of the Olympic Games in 1956 as well as political incursions going on behind the scenes and in public during the Melbourne Games.

The water polo game between Hungary and Russia is the most notorious event  that occurred but it was one of many political instances that occurred before and during the Games. The year 1956 was during  the Cold War between the USSR and the USA and their allies and political tensions were rife.

In the weeks before the Games commenced the USSR had invaded Hungary to crush an uprising against Russian occupation of the country. The Hungarian team decided to compete in Melbourne however Holland, Spain and Switzerland boycotted the Games because of the Soviet invasion. But there were other political tensions too. Three other teams, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq, boycotted the Games because of the Suez crisis. There were also stand-offs between the two Chinas, the two Koreas and two Germanys about who would, or would not, compete.

The author sets out to provide the background to some of these tensions, particularly between Hungary and the USSR as well as between the USSR and the USA. He describes the quest by the Russians in the 1950s to form competitive sports teams that would win more medals than any other team, especially American teams. They began to compete in the Olympic Games again at Helsinki in 1952 with some success. In 1956 they were ready to show their supremacy.

As well as the sport there were events occurring behind the scenes with members of some teams being closely monitored by their security agents. A number of competitors from communist countries defected after the Games.

The Olympic Games held in Melbourne were known as the Friendly Games. However there was another story and this book shows some of what was going on behind the scenes.

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