Red sport, red tape: the Olympic games, the Soviet sports bureaucracy, and the Cold War, 1952-1980 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Parks, Jenifer
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Based on archival sources only accessible since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, this dissertation is the first historical analysis of the Soviet sports bureaucracy spanning the period from the USSR's Olympic debut in 1952 on the eve of Stalin's death through the 1980 Games held in Moscow. Since their entrance into the Olympic Games, Soviet athletes have been a dominant force in the world sporting community. This dissertation finds that behind the high-profile performances of Soviet elite athletes, a legion of sports bureaucrats worked within both the Soviet party-state bureaucracy and international sports organizations to increase Soviet chances of success and make Soviet administrators a respected voice in international sports. Challenging fundamental ideas about how sport should be governed, these communist bureaucrats carved out an unexpected place for themselves and for other representatives of the socialist world. Moreover, the USSR became a driving force behind the evolution of the Olympic Games and changing priorities in Olympic philosophy, spearheading major expansions in membership, sports outreach to the developing world, and women's sports. Capitalizing on shared values between communist and Olympic ideals, Soviet sports representatives helped make spreading peace and friendship through sport a top priority of the Olympic Movement. Back home in the USSR, the activities of sports administrators illuminate how decisions were made within the Soviet party-state. As architects of Soviet initiatives in international sports, sports bureaucrats recommended policy and exerted significant influence within the Soviet Union. Although valued for their expertise on sporting matters, the personal ties they established with international sports leaders, and their knowledge of the internal politics of international sporting federations, their decision-making authority remained circumscribed by the extent to which their proposals found support from top Communist Party leaders. Through a combination of ideological drive, political savvy, and professional pragmatism, Soviet representatives realized Soviet propaganda and foreign policy goals in international sports and cultivated the friendly side of Soviet power during the Cold War. State administrators on all levels displayed activism and ingenuity, but their efforts remained limited by the authoritarian, hierarchical governing style of the top leadership.
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  • Raleigh, Donald
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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