It important it was for him to make

It
is no suspect that the United States counts with the highest performing
athletes in the world who have dominated the world of sports in countless
occasions. Nevertheless, America’s sporting success has come due to various
political reforms and socio-economic transformations proposed by past leaders.

As covered by our class reading, “The Soft American” written by former U.S.

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President John F. Kennedy highlighted the initial symptoms of America’s
deterioration of moral, mental and physical health becoming apparent during the
U.S.  Recruiting Selective Services
during the Korean War. With regards to Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber they
were able to note the difference between American youth falling far behind
European physical health tests. The results of the findings spread across media
systems, making the United States susceptible to losing the war in Korea, and
hence jeopardizing America’s exceptionalist attitude. In consequence, President
Eisenhower implemented a Council on Youth Fitness which kick started the
commercial promotion of physical wellbeing through academic institutions.

However, no significant improvement had been reported in the U.S. compared with
Japan, Britain and the Soviet Union.

The
1960’s era was a time of colossal technological developments such as the
personal ownership of televisions in households, not only working as a tool for
leisure but also a powerful political device. Although, television was far
behind the popularity of print journalism, in terms of the range of audiences. Hence,
with the support of the President Kennedy a series of four-fitness program steps
were nationally aired in television to redirect national interest towards
physical culture. With the intention of inducing a leadership identity, as well
as improving the health and vigor of all Americans. Demonstrated by one of the
most iconic quotes Kennedy ever said, “We do not want our children to become a
generation of spectators.” (Kennedy,
1960) shows how important it was for him to make fellow American families
commit to their personal physical well being. However, he made a distinct
separation from the Soviet Union’s authoritarian regime by saying, “We do not
live in a regiment society where men are forced to live their lives in the
interest of the state”, followed by reminding the freedom of which the United
States lives by. Nevertheless, he made clear that if that physical culture was
not encouraged in some families then they must strengthen their intellectual
performance and mental skills of which the US so heavily depended on.

On
the other hand, the Soviet Union also established programs to encourage
physical culture and interest towards sport. Referred as Ready for Labour and Defence of the USSR, abbreviated as GTO was
intended to tackle national drug use epidemics, alcoholism and poor hygiene exposure
as infectious diseases were extremely prevalent in early 20th
Century USSR. Although, as the name indicates its objective was to strengthen
the bodies of Soviet citizens aged ten to sixty, in order to count with a
stronger workforce and enhance the individual’s health to combat fatigue in
a warfare situation.

 Among other reasons another leading reason was
for nation building aims, as states as the Soviet Union is home to over 160
different ethnic groups and indigenous people. Composed by a series of several
physical aptitude tests to obtain the GTO silver, gold or badge of honor
depending on their performance was an efficient incitement for reaching a
higher level of Soviet nationalistic pride. Similarly to Mao Zedong’s China,
the Soviet Union emphasized much of their government spending on enhancing
their country’s physical culture whereas education, characterized as mental culture was left behind. In order
to prevent the people to learn from other regimes around the world and
understand that theirs is repressive as well as totalitarian hence, start a
revolution against its leaders.

Throughout
the Cold War, the Olympic games were chiefly seen as a political arena, offering a symbolic
alternate channel through which nations had the opportunity to demonstrate
their strength and international rivalry. More specifically, with reference to
the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan coincided with the mass spread of
telecommunicating media, such as televisions airing athletic events without
needing to send tapes overseas. As the revolutionary installation of the first
geostationary communication satellite called Syncom 3 enabled the games be
broadcasted internationally. Moreover, tensions between the East and West were
heavily amplified by the mass media to gain more viewers, however it was found
that Soviet athletes were far more serious than any other Olympic team. Scholars
claim that their “machine-like” and emotionless behavior was intended to
epitomize their political system.

What was argued to be a
subtle idea that the Games were a chance to show political superiority over the
Soviets maintained extremely prevalent years after the end of the 1964 Games.

So with an outmatched Western bias the media preferred to expose American
superiority by emphasizing acts of sportsmanship, but most importantly
headlining the medal count. Without regard to the athletes it was essential to
frame this footage to the public principally because America needed to see the
Soviets be defeated. Tensions rose to such a high level that the United States’
media attempted to destabilize the Soviets by accusing them of inadequate
sportsmanship conduct and that their presence in the Olympics would pose a bad
example for the future athletes, as the USSR was fixated in winning and
nationalism.

Additionally, the
Olympics was plainly seen as the shadow of the troubling East-Western relations
to such level that even when the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles
Summer Olympics it only sparked even more journalistic headlines, such as the
release of Time magazine “Olympic
turmoil, Why the Soviets said Nyet”. Hence enabling Soviet nationalist
propaganda gain international attention and being featured in foreign
newspapers, portrayed as a negative system due to America’s overarching
dominance in media. This dominance was evidently played in the West’s favor and
used this opportunity to frame U.S. athletes as well as American principles, in
a pitting context against other nations, but specially antagonizing the Soviet
Union.

The Cold War being such
an era that was characterized by the highlighted dichotomy of “Us verses them”,
which conglomerates America’s general approach to the Olympics through
literature. Thus, encompassing the synergy between the glorification of
American athleticism with little regard to smaller countries’ sporting
capabilities. In retrospect, if we look back to how countries react to their athlete’s
performance it is certain that in regards to the portrayal of the athletes they
were identified as national heroes for a limited period of time as what really
matters in the end is the medal count.

Only a week before the
closing ceremony of the 1964 Japan Summer Olympics, Nikita Khrushchev was
ousted from his position as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union. As a consequence to his poorly executed reforms and little regard
to other political parties and governmental institutions. Succeeded by Leonid
Brezhnev among other officials the Soviet Union was on its way to revolutionize
their regime and rejuvenate collective leadership, clearly this adjustment worked
in favor of the United States and Western ideologies as it defied with
Khrushchev’s autocracy and opened new trading deals with international markets.

Followed by the shift of leaders the eight-year Soviet economic reform starting
in 1965 targeted three measures; the reunification of Soviet economy by means
of implementing new central ministries, recalculating the price of goods and
services, and lastly a decentralizing renovation of the enterprise incentive system.

Through the medium of using and spreading capitalist socio-economic schematics,
hence ameliorating foreign relations. Nevertheless, the blurred fashion by
which the Soviet government administration worked resulted with a rather large
range of disparities between the benefited and the hindered, thus triggering
their ongoing oligarchy.

Moreover, the success
of these measures foreshadowed the success of the Soviet Union in sporting
performance. The gradual reform was on its way to escalate the nation’s Gross
Domestic Product per capita and increment its wealth distribution equality,
also referred as GINI coefficient. In order to boost the country’s availability
to facilities of which athletes can make use of, hence maintain and sponsor government
subsidized sport institutions as Dynamo Sport Clubs per say. On a further note,
it has been considered that the era for Soviet economic reformation supposed a valuable
opportunity to commence an era of fruitful relations with the United States.

With the prior disentanglement of oligarch-type administration of the Soviet
Union, it created a long-term development that enabled forthcoming leaders like
Mikhail Gorbachev implement his dual program such as “perestroika” and
“glasnost”, referring to restructuring with openness, regarding international
relations and internal affairs.

Resulting in the dismissal
of several communist governments from power across Eastern Europe and bringing
an eventual closure to the Cold War in 1991. Gorbachev’s internal
reorganization aligned with U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s interests of which
included the demilitarization of nuclear weapons, that led to eventual successful
negotiations between the East and West. Nevertheless, the inherent communist
traces were inevitable in Gorbachev’s policy-making course, yet found a common
ground with Reagan regarding the buildup of U.S. forces. Along the
participation from both sides for five summits resulting with the agreement of
the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, involving a large-scale decline
of domestic weapon stockpiles. Nevertheless, Gorbachev’s shift towards a
capitalist regime took a toll on the nation’s economy that culminated a
tremendous financial collapse, and dissolving fifteen individual republics. Followed
by his resignation in 1991. 

Subsequently to Japan’s
nuclear destruction it was crucial to show the world its renewed economic potential
and socio-economic rebirth. Demonstrated by their outstanding sporting
performance totaling with 16 gold medals, and ranking third in the overall
medal count, following the Soviet Union with 30 gold medals and the United
States with 36. Moreover, both in men and women categories, American athletes
dominated Athletics of which composed a staggering 40% of the total U.S. medal
count. More specifically 100-meter gold medalist and Dallas Cowboys wide
receiver Bob Hayes was greatly cherished, not only setting a world record but
also setting an emblematic figure for the African American community in the
United States, during a fundamental era for the development African-American
civil rights. On the other hand, the Soviet Union also counted with a strong
team specifically High jump winner Velriy Brumel and Hammer throw winner
Romuald Klim, amongst the Press sisters. So at this point we can see the West
versus the East in its purest form, demonstrating the ongoing rivalry between
both nations without setting a clear champion as athletes from both sides had
an extremely high performance rate. Although, the issue in which the United
State stood out was in the availability and the number of Olympic athletes it
counted with. Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union did not subsidize as
many sports institutions throughout the country as the U.S did. that led to the
limited number of athletes, hence being a possible factor for its sporting inferiority
with respect of that of the United States’.

In spite of the
stratospheric levels of nationalistic rivalry and being at the height of the
Cold War the Japan games are still considered to be the most apolitical games
ever celebrated. Even more so these symbolic games set an example to a
transformative sense of nationalism, by its subtle politics that helped
conservative leaders reinvent key aspects of nationalism. In addition, as
previously mentioned, the Olympics displayed an impeccable arena for national
reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan, as for the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, even if no voices were raised to combat Japan’s Olympics it took place
during a decade of political turmoil and mass external pressures regarding the peak
of the War in Vietnam.

Commonly referred as
one of the most unethical proxy wars in U.S. history, the Vietnam War was
primarily fought between the East and West, amongst other lesser allies such as
North Korea that of the Soviet Union. Thus, foreshadowing the conflicting
ideologies on the battleground as well as the arena. This controversial
conflict did not ease the United States ability to negotiate with the Soviet
Union as both nations were fighting the most resource-consuming war either had
ever fought. Nevertheless, the United States took a larger toll than the Soviet
Union, as it had to transport an immense amount of troops to the other side of
the Pacific Ocean whereas the Soviets possessed a demographical advantage.

Which resulted to be one of the most controversial wars of the 20th
Century, as neither nation concluded with a winner, but only fueling the Cold
War.

Since the Olympic games
in Japan, U.S.- Soviet relations have changed its route towards a peaceful and
multilateral affiliation amongst other countries located in Western Europe and
Asia. Resulting with the creation of powerful allies that combat along each
other for the same causes today. Exemplified by the fight for counterterrorism
in Middle Eastern regions or the fight against totalitarian states like North
Korea per say.  Nevertheless, this
unification of superpowers was carried out with the help of many Summits
regarding international affairs throughout the 1990’s. Illustrated by class
material, Rebecca Hammon portrays an accurate epitome symbolizing the United
States relation with Russia as she played for their national team in the 2008
Olympic games in Beijing and 2012 Olympic games in London. Her controversial
participation in the opposing team demonstrated how the celebration of sports
is not intended to impose nationalistic dominance over another country, but
simply to play for the sake to play the sport in its self. Nonetheless, as
previously mentioned it is inevitable for sports to get in the way of politics,
especially in the era of the Cold War. As sports was the only method in which
both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in the closest act of
physical war.

On a further note, some
countries today struggle to gain the right to host Olympic games such as the
case with China and its geopolitical ideologies that still implement communist
traits inherited from the Soviet Union. Acknowledging that clashing ideologies
contribute a larger sense of emotion to sports we must understand that
sportsmanship as shown in the Japan Olympics games are as important as the
political prospects that are at stake as the celebration of sports are not
targeted to cause further conflict than the existing but to create constructive
relations. Perfectly exemplified by another piece of class material in which we
covered the power of Ping-Pong to unify two countries that defy each others
ideology such as the United States and China, commonly referred as ‘Ping-pong
diplomacy’. Marking the thaw of Sino-American relations, followed by the visit
of president Nixon and finding common grounds with People’s Republic of China
and become America’s number one trading partner today.

In retrospect, with
respect to the analytics covered the journalistic depiction of both Soviet and
American athletes did play a leading role in the build of political tension
through various mediums such as press and groundbreaking technology such as the
television, showing their eagerness to appear as the superior nation. In
addition, both the East and the West demonstrated a great level of performance
in athletics, epitomizing their militaristic power framing the skepticism
between capitalism and communist power. So before opening the last section of
my discussion I would like to highlight the United States ability to negotiate
with the Soviet Union after the Olympic games still seemed unattainable and
without much benefit for both sides. Although, if we were to look back at the actions
taken during the Cold War from a reexamination point of view, the Olympic Games
did in fact do a good job to redirect international attention from the Vietnam
War, on to sporting events due to the skyrocketing demand of televisions
between 1963 and 1964 and the growing encouragement of athletics in education
institutions in the United States as well as the Soviet Union.

Hence, if we were to
put the Cold War and the Olympic Games in a melting pot I would say that it
would be unjust to deny the reflection of political tension in sports however
it unified countries along enhancing socio-economic developments through
opening markets to other countries. So, according to my personal belief that
may be disputed by historians that may have a more sophisticated grasp on the
field, I would say that even the 1964 Summer Olympics hosted in Tokyo supposed a
wide range of nationalistic conflict and did not ease relationships between the
Soviet Union and the United States in the short run, as with the presence of
the War in Vietnam, Space Race, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the
Korean War among other historical footprints foreshadowed conflicting outlooks
of political regimes which only complicated the ability to reach a common
ground. Nonetheless, if we adopt a wider perspective I would certainly concur
that it did help the East and the West alleviate its’ relations on the long run.

 

 

 

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