In the late nineteenth century, socialism and the international Olympic movement occupied opposite ends of the political spectrum. Socialist leaders decried sport as an opiate of the masses. Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern games, sought to exclude workers and women from his grand festivals. When the Bolsheviks came to power, they wanted nothing to do with the Olympics and the Olympics wanted nothing to do with them. Yet, after the Second World War the USSR took part in international sport and came to dominate Olympic competition. By 1974, Moscow had been awarded the 1980 Games, indicating Communism’s complete embrace of an ideology and set of practices it had once abhorred. This talk will examine how and why this strange embrace came about and how it influenced international politics during the Cold War.
Robert Edelman is a professor of Russian history and the history of sport at the University of California, San Diego, where he has been teaching since 1972, when he received his doctorate from Columbia University. He has also taught at UCLA. He was a former sports-writer and radio announcer. He has consulted on documentaries for HBO, PBS, ESPN, and CBS at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. He lives in Solana Beach with three children, two dogs, and one wife. Professor Edelman received the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant in 2007-08.