Up to date information on the comings and goings in The Diefenbunker: Canada's Cold War Museum. Also a behind the scenes look at how the museum operates and how the museum team is working after our capacity expansion project to which grew our capacity from 60 to 420 in July 2010!

Cold War Olympics: London 1948

Posted by Eric Espig On 11:33

By Matt Aubin  (Diefenbunker Interpreter)

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics games are rapidly approaching, and for every month of this Olympic year, the DiefenBlog will feature a short piece about how the global conflict of the Cold War played out at various Olympic venues.

Chapter 5 of the Olympic Charter states that “no kind of demonstration of political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas.” The Olympics are intended to be a celebration of sport and international cooperation that trumps politics and nationalist agendas. Unfortunately, throughout the Cold War era the Olympic Games were occasionally used as a political and ideological "battleground".

The first Olympic Games to follow the Second World War were held in the winter of 1948, in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The host country had been neutral throughout WWII, and Germany and Japan were not invited to participate by the international community for WWII aggressions. The games were a simple affair, the world was still recovering from the depletion of physical and economic resources incurred during the war. By 1948 the USSR had yet to participate in any modern Olympic Games and although invited to St. Moritz, USSR opted not to send any athletes. They did however, send observers to assess how well Soviet participants might have fared.

The Summer Games in London, England of the same year would be the first Olympics to highlight the post-WWII East-West divide. The Games were a frugal event. There was no new construction for the games, and athletes were housed in former barracks and college dormitories. Germany and Japan were excluded from these games as well, and the Soviet Union again opted not to participate despite being invited to do so. The London Games would be the first to feature a political defection over Cold War lines. Czechoslovakia, after only months of communist takeover, did send a team to London. Czechoslovakian gymnast Marie Provaznikova refused to return to her homeland after winning a gold medal citing: "A lack of freedom."  Both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games of 1948 were undertaken with a spirit of renewal but given the potential uses of the Games as a stage for international propaganda, political undertones became obvious. The East-West divide of the Cold War would remain a defining characteristic of the Olympics 1948 until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

     Next month, as the Winter Games get underway in Vancouver, the DiefenBlog will feature a look at the 1952 winter Olympics, held in Oslo, Norway and the summer Games of Helsinki, Finland. The Helsinki Olympics were the first in which the Soviet Union fielded athletes.