“Cold War Games: Spies, Subterfuge and Secret Operations at the 1956 Olympic Games” by Harry Blustein
Olympics, water polo, football (European), politics
August 1, 2017
3 of 5 stars (okay)
The 1956 Summer Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia had one very memorable event – the water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. The match turned very physical, resulting in a gruesome-looking injury to a Hungarian player. This was a bloody injury to the nose, giving the game the nickname of the “Blood in i Water” match.
Why was this match so bloody? There were hard feelings between the two countries as a Hungarian uprising to break away from the communist rule of the USSR was crushed by the latter’s military. These carried to the Olympics and that match, along with how the Soviet Union became a Olympic super-power, is captured in this book by Harry Blustein.
This book is more than just a sports book – it is a good historical book as well if a reader wants to learn about the inner workings of the Soviet sports machine. The reader will learn how the Soviet Union was able to convince the IOC chairman Avery Brundage that its athletes were true amateurs. Brundage took this position mainly because the United States athletes, in his eyes, were also subsidized with college scholarships and military service. While a reader may not agree, it was an interesting argument.
There are also stories about the athletes. One touching story in particular is what an American male athlete and a Hungarian female athlete had to do in order to marry after the Games as Hungary was concerned about athletes defecting. Also interesting was the role one of the water polo players from Hungary played in the uprising and his concern for his family during the Games.
At times the book was very slow paced and a tough read, but the material kept my interest and by the end, I felt that I learned a lot about one of the most interesting Olympic games during the Cold War era.
I wish to thank Bonnier Publishing Australia for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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