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'A Game, a Competition, an Instrument?': High Performance, Cultural Diplomacy and German Sport from 1950 to 1972

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International sporting events such as the Olympic Games with their nationalistic rituals and ceremonies were one of the GDR's main spheres of action in its struggle for diplomatic recognition. The government of the Federal Republic of Germany had to find a way to counter this challenge. First, it tried to block the GDR from achieving Olympic recognition. After this strategy failed, there was only one way West Germany could still limit GDR visibility and underscore its own strength: by winning more medals than the socialist challenger. This attitude transformed sport into an arena for the competing political systems and yielded the same results in both German states: sport became politicized, the sports systems centralized and sports sciences more important. The GDR sports system acted as the catalyst for these developments as both the challenger to and as a role model for West German sport.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: German Historical Institute, Washington, DC

Publication date: March 1, 2009


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