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  • The Whole World Was Watching: Sport in the Cold War ed. by Robert Edelman and Christopher Young
  • Heather L. Dichter
Edelman, Robert, and Christopher Young, eds. The Whole World Was Watching: Sport in the Cold War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2020. Pp. xi+ 334. Index, notes. $65.00, hb. $65.00, eb.

Robert Edelman and Christopher Young organized a series of events on Cold War sport that have resulted in a few previous publications, and The Whole World Was Watching is the culminating book from this National Endowment for the Humanities–funded project. Several well-known sport historians and a few prominent historians who have now tackled sport come together in this exciting volume. In considering cultural Cold War literature, Edelman and Young rightfully claim that the Cold War "site at which this battle was most [End Page 77] powerfully articulated is sport" (3). In their introduction, they emphasize six key areas "to show that sport is both integral to the study of the cultural Cold War" while also being different "from other forms of culture" (21). These areas—fans, media, a false binary of state versus independence, inadequacy of bipolarity, race, and gender—are the underlying themes that appear throughout the fifteen chapters in the book.

The volume is divided into five largely geographical sections: the United States (two chapters), the Soviet Union (four chapters), the German Democratic Republic (GDR, three chapters), Asia (three chapters), and the Postcolonial (three chapters). The individual countries with whole sections devoted to them are in many ways not surprising, as they were the most prominent players on the global Cold War sport stage. Although Edelman and Young state they explicitly chose to exclude the Olympics and focus on regional games or individual sports to demonstrate that Cold War sport went "beyond the few highly visible mega-events" (5–6) and impacted "everyday life" (20), the Olympics are not absent from the book, as Olympic desires or actions drove many state decisions. The sport with the most attention in the book is soccer, the focus of four chapters: two on the Soviet Union (Erik Scott and Manfred Zeller), East Germany (Alan McDougall), and Portugal and its African colonies (Todd Cleveland).

The Whole World Was Watching will interest sport historians in general as well as Cold War specialists, and this book will also be valuable in the classroom as many of the chapters provide shorter pieces of work from well-known sport historians on their topics. Scholars will be familiar with the work of Toby Rider on covert CIA backing of the efforts to help Hungarian athletes defect from the Melbourne Olympics after the 1956 revolution; Elliott Gorn on Muhammad Ali's anti–Vietnam War stance; Manfred Zeller on fan culture in late Soviet soccer; Alan McDougall on the waning years of a state-supported football team in East Germany; Mike Dennis on East German doping; Rob Ruck on race and baseball across the Caribbean; and Brenda Elsey on Latin American relations through the Pan-American Games.

Other chapters provide new approaches to some well-known topics. Mikhail Prozumenshikov uses Soviet sources to reveal how the communist system enabled the desire for the USSR to host the Olympics to come to fruition, particularly through its champion Leonid Breznev. Noted Chinese sport historian Amanda Shuman focuses her chapter on China's sport exchanges with the Soviet Union in the early years of the communist regime, before the Sino–Soviet split. Andrew Morris's chapter on Taiwan presents another side to the "two China" issue by showing how Taiwan used both baseball and basketball domestically to unify its population. Simon Creak demonstrates how the South East Asia Peninsular Games explicitly built on "regional experiences of decolonization" and anticommunist Cold War sentiments as part of their founding in 1959 (189). With Portugal's African colonies fighting until the 1970s to gain their independence, football players who left their African homelands to play—and often study at universities—in Portugal negotiated a long and complex role within those decolonization efforts, as Todd Cleveland reveals.

Three chapters provide the most original new scholarship contained in the volume. Prominent Cold War historian James Hershberg examines the diplomatic actions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2155-8450
Print ISSN
0094-1700
Pages
pp. 77-79
Launched on MUSE
2021-07-29
Open Access
No
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