Published by Echo Publishing, Cold War Games shows vividly how the USSR and US exploited the Melbourne Olympic Games for propaganda, turning athletic fields, swimming pools and other sporting venues into battlefields in which each fought for supremacy.
If you want to be forgotten by history call yourself the “friendly” games. This is what happened to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, which I found were anything but friendly. From the bloody semi-final water polo match between the USSR and Hungary, to the 61 athletes, officials and journalists from Iron Curtain countries who defected to the West, sport and politics collided during the Cold War.
Behind the scenes there were clandestine operations, by the KGB and counter espionage operations against the USSR, which are described in Cold War Games.
There were glimmers of rapprochement between East and West when Czechoslovak discus thrower Olga Fikotová, fell in love with American hammer thrower Hal Connolly, and their struggle to overcome Cold War politics to marry. The Czechoslovak government took extraordinary steps to prevent Olga defecting and when Hal went to Prague after the Games, in the hope of marrying Olga, they were frustrated at every turn.
Cold War Games goes deeper than just describing these events, but brings to life athletes from both sides of the Iron Curtain and shows how the Cold War affected their lives. It also shows how communist countries fed of the successes of their athletes to legitimise their own regimes and win the propaganda war against the West.
With fresh information from ASIO files and newly discovered documents from archives in the USSR, US, East Germany and Hungary, I have been able to show just how pivotal the 1956 Olympic Games were for the US and USSR during the Cold War.
Reviews on the book are appearing in newspapers Herald Sun Cold War Games extract_ the Hungarian defection plot The Age review and The Age review.