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The purpose of the project is to juxtapose how politics and government structure shape the world of sports, as well as the progress of individual sports, with the isolation of athletes from the political realities of their respective nations. We assert that contemporary politics is directly reflected in the sports community through the way athletes interact and the ways other nations perceive athletes’ treatment. We argue that around the Hungarian Revolution, Eastern countries like Hungary attempted to perform their strength by giving privileges that allowed athletes to excel while western nations like the United States focused on fostering their savior complexes by "saving" and subsequently parading around eastern athletes who were convinced to defect. This narrative is complicated by the disparity between the sports community acknowledging how domestic and international politics influences each sport and the utopia view that governments were able to craft among their athlete populations about the government's actions.

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Streaming Media

Faculty Mentor

Johanna Mellis


HIST 350: Cold War in Europe: Immigrants, Labor, and Gender


Andrea Bodo-Schmidt Schapiro, gymnastics, Olympics, Cold War, oral history, Sports Illustrated, sport history, Hungary


Digital Humanities | European History | Oral History | Political History | Sports Studies


The project can be viewed on this page as a Microsoft Office Sway presentation. It is also available to download in PDF format. The citations page is available to download in PDF format as a supplemental file.

How Politics Can Shape Sports and the Athletes Who Perform: A Case Study of Hungarian Gymnastics During the Cold War