Academic journal article Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies

Hungary's Olympic Dilemma: The Politics of Global Conflict

Academic journal article Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies

Hungary's Olympic Dilemma: The Politics of Global Conflict

Article excerpt

Method

The results of this study are based on two different methods of the qualitative research. The analysis of documents from the 1980s, available in the Hungarian State Archives, helped me to understand the opinion-making and actions of socialist Hungary's governing bodies. I perused documents of the then sport high authority, the National Physical Education and Sport Office (OTSH); documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Political Commission and Central Commission of the Hungarian Socialist Labour Party (state party), and its Administrative Department. Further, sports reporting as it affected Hungarian society can be studied by examining the reporting in three different Hungarian sport newspapers--Nemzeti Sport, Kepes Sport, Sporthirlap--beginning in the 1920s and extending into the 1980s. What is more, I conducted twenty-three personal interviews with athletes and sport leaders from the 1980s to understand their feelings and opinion about the boycott.

World War I

The 1914 Paris session of the International Olympic Committee chose Budapest to organize the 1920 Summer Games. In that same year just--justa few weeks before the Sarajevo attempt on the Habsburg prince, which turned out to be the "casus belli" of the great war--the unity of world sports had for the first time been symbolized by the five rings, at a track and field championship in Lyon, France. This symbol has remained the official symbol of Olympism since 1916, yet it could make its public debut neither at the planned 1916 Berlin Olympics nor in Budapest in 1920, but only during the 1920 Antwerp Summer Games. These, however, were incomplete Games, inasmuch as the defeated nations of World War I--Germany, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey--were not invited.

The great war affected the Hungarian sport system in multiple ways. Not only was the privilege of having an official Olympic Games organizing body taken away, but the possibility of participating in the 1920 festival was also withheld. Then again, after the war, the peace-treaty divided the country, resulting in the loss of two thirds of its territory; its infrastructure and economy also lay in ruins. What is more, many top athletes (e.g., track athletes Imre Mudin and Gyorgy Kovacs, and swimmers such as Bela Las-Torres and Oszkar Demjan, to name just a few) had lost their lives on the field of battle, and others found themselves under the authority of a new nation.

After the war, the re-organization of international sporting life was held back by conflicting interests. The Entente nations' aim was to prevent the defeated nations from corresponding or interacting with the outside on any sporting matters. A solid blockade prevented these nations' athletes from crossing the borders, for several years. Likewise, the Entente nations sought to exclude the defeated nations from representation on all international sport federations. This approach was perceived to be reasonable and found a positive echo in organizations such as the International Football Association (FIFA), the International Swimming Federation, and the Olympic Movement.

The opinion leader on the question of this boycott was the English Football Association. It went to greath lengths to convince the world that any sports contacts with the 'aggressor nations' would be harmful for international peace, and that they therefore must be excluded from FIFA. At the FIFA conference of 28 January 1920, however, the Scandinavian states, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy insisted on their right to compete against all FIFA member nations, stating that they disagreed with the Entente on the question of exclusion. Consequently England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France, Belgium and Luxemburg decided to establish their own International Football Federation, named Confederation of Nations' Alliances 1920.

Nations supporting the complete reintegration of the international sport, system and Hungary's participation in it, carried out various actions to demonstrate their point of view: In May 1920, Switzerland sent a football team to Budapest. …

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