Cold War Games by Harry Blutstein

Cold War Games by Harry BlutsteinCold War Games: Spies, Subterfuge and Secret Operations at the 1956 Olympic Games by Harry Blutstein
Published by Bonnier Publishing Australia on August 1st 2017
Genres: History, Politics
Pages: 368
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley

The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games have become known as the ‘friendly games’, but East-West rivalry ensured that they were anything but friendly. From the bloody semi-final water polo match between the USSR and Hungary, to the athletes who defected to the West, sport and politics collided during the Cold War.

Cold War Games shows vividly how the USSR and US exploited the Melbourne Olympic Games for propaganda, turning athletic fields, swimming pools and other sporting venues into battlefields in which each fought for supremacy.

There were glimmers of peace and solidarity. Cold War Games also tells the love story between Czechoslovak discus thrower Olga Fikotová and American hammer thrower Hal Connolly, and their struggle to overcome Cold War politics to marry.

Cold War Games is a lively, landmark book, with fresh information from ASIO files and newly discovered documents from archives in the USSR, US and Hungary, revealing secret operations in Melbourne, and showing just how pivotal the 1956 Olympic Games were for the great powers of the Cold War.

'Courage, fear, intrigue, brutality, generosity, love, hate, romance, humour, triumph and tragedy: they're all here in this superbly crafted book about the intimate entanglement of politics and sport during the deepest freeze of the global cold war. A major contribution to the history of international sport and politics'. — Frank Bongiorno

'Cold War Games is fast-paced, edgy and highly readable. Harry Blutstein crafts his gripping account with an impressive array of interviews, archival material and scholarship from across the globe. The result is a fascinating and accessible insight into a seminal moment in Olympic and Cold War history.' — Richard Mills, Lecturer in Modern European History, University of East Anglia

'This is a tale that is long overdue. Mr Blutstein's well-researched history of the chicanery of the Soviets in Olympic competition is a compelling read.' — Jon Henricks, Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960 Swimming Dual Gold Medallist

The 1956 olympic games were something of a high point in Australia’s sporting history, and looking at it through the rosy lens of history and nostalgia it is easy to ignore the political, and diplomatic environment which the games took place in. As a student in history, I find it fascinating that there was all of this backstory going on behind the scenes, while on the face of it there was a sporting contest happening between the various countries.

Blutstein covers far more in this book than just the 1956 games, as the story goes back to the beginning of the Cold War, and tracks the lives and history of a number of the athletes who would play a significant role in games. Strangely enough most of the focus was on the athletes from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and the political pressures they were under to perform. A lot of the book is devoted to the stories of the athletes who were planning to, or ultimately did defect as a result of their visit to Melbourne.

I found this book was probably not as interesting as I had hoped it would be. It was interesting in that it gave some great context to the political games which went on behind the Games, but I don’t think it is a book for everyone.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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