'The Continuation of Politics by Other Means'Britain, the Two Germanys and the Olympic Games, 1949-1972

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-474
Number of pages32
JournalContemporary European History
Volume18
Issue number4
DOI
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
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Abstract

This article evaluates the interplay between international sport and international politics during the cold war through an examination of the two Germanys and the Olympics from a British perspective. Germany was at the centre of Olympic and cold war politics between 1945 and the early 1970s, and the two German states competed fiercely over questions of national legitimacy. West Germany was initially successful in denying international recognition to the ‘other’ German state. East Germany countered this by developing a strategy that utilised international sport, particularly the Olympic Games, to further its claims for statehood. While recognising the flaws in the West German case against East Germany, British policy was constrained by the need to accommodate Bonn's sensibilities, given that the Federal Republic was a major ally. An examination of this ‘Olympian’ struggle from a British perspective tells us much about the West's cold war strategy and casts new light on this arena of East–West competition.