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School of Arts and Humanities

Cold War sports podcasts recall drama of Navratilova's return

The return of Martina Navratilova to her Czech homeland, a dramatic clash between ice hockey stars from both sides of the Iron Curtain and a state-sponsored East German doping programme are discussed in new episodes of Sport in the Cold War, co-produced by Cambridge University.

The Cold War’s sporting drama produced moments so memorable they've lasted a lifetime.

The return of tennis star and defector Martina Navratilova to her Czech homeland led to irrepressible chants from the Prague crowd for her to be acknowledged by the umpires – even though she played​for the US team.

The need for ice hockey stars on both sides​of the Iron Curtain to test themselves against each other led to thrilling sporting showdowns during​ the​ Cold War's​ 1970s thaw.

How sport changed politics is one of the themes of the latest series of Sport in the Cold War podcasts, an international collaboration of sports historians exploring the cultural, social and political significance of sport during the Cold War era.

​Presented by British journalist Vince Hunt, the series showcases the sporting personalities and thrilling moments that touched a world divided by post-1945 rivalries and ideology.

On April 18 Mike Dennis tells the story of the East German sporting system, one that included a state-sponsored doping programme that made the GDR the second most successful sporting nation at the 1988 Seoul Olympics (​37 gold medals;​102 overall).

The dramatic climax of the ice hockey Summit series of 1972 is the focus of a double-headed podcast on May 2 featuring Canadian hockey fan and Russia expert David MacDonald with the backroom politics that led to it revealed by Cold War International History Project founder and George Washington University professor James Herschberg.

May 30’s release will feature the Soviet goalkeeper ‘with the big smile’ – Lev Yashin – who won friends even among his opponents, while June 13’s podcast examines the significance of South Africa in the Cold War world.

The Sport in the Cold War podcasts, hosted online at the Woodrow Wilson Center, will build into a comprehensive digest of key moments in Cold War sports history, available to download, featuring some of the world’s great sports historians.

The podcasts can be downloaded and listened to online via the Wilson Center, and on SoundCloud.

Image credit: Front page: Beraldo Leal on Flickr (CC2.0); Header image: Wikimedia Commons