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The Olympic Games, the Soviet Sports Bureaucracy, and the Cold War: Red Sport, Red Tape

Jenifer Parks

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ISBN 10: 1498541186 / ISBN 13: 9781498541183
Published by Lexington Books
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Title: The Olympic Games, the Soviet Sports ...

Publisher: Lexington Books

Binding: Hardback

Book Condition: New

About this title


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."


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

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

Not only has Parks accessed unprecedented levels of material on Soviet sport post-1945, but she has used it to brilliant effect, producing a book that is simply indispensable to anyone interested in Cold War sport. . . . From start to finish, this book is filled with riveting insights, impressive research, and clearly articulated analysis. For those who have a grasp on the existing literature on the Soviet Olympic experience, or those interested in Cold War sport in general, they will no doubt be fascinated by this work. In sum, Parks has made a significant contribution to the scholarship on sports history.--The Russian Review

A welcome addition to the recent scholarship on the late Soviet period, Jenifer Parks' book provides a thoroughly-researched account of the Soviet Sports Bureaucracy and the Olympic Games. . . . Archival research in Moscow, the United States, and Switzerland underpins this rich assessment of Soviet Olympic history. While neither the athletes nor the public reception of the Olympic Games are widely analyzed, this focused study of the middle layer of the Soviet system will find keen readers amongst those interested in Olympic history, international relations, and the late socialist period.--Slavic Review

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