Women’s artistic gymnastics during the Cold War and its aftermath: final report for the IOC Olympic Studies Centre

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Abstract

This research aims to discover how Women’s Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) developed from its balletic roots to its current acrobatic form, and why it evolved this way between 1952 and 2000. Tracing WAG through the Cold War, both as a temporal scope and political context, I examine the sport’s governance through the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). WAG began as the pre-eminent sport for women – designed to be appropriate females without challenging understandings of sport as masculine. However by the 1970s a new style of performance emerged which abandoned these feminine ideals. Through the resulting popularity, gymnastics tours demonstrated the IOC’s own internal debates regarding amateurism, and indeed professionalization can be seen in WAG from the 1980s onwards. Meanwhile, the relationship between the FIG and IOC is analysed throughout this work. These changes are explored through the backdrop of the Cold War, with the 1980s boycotts and post-Cold War migration all playing a major part in WAG, Olympic and indeed world history. Ultimately, I argue that WAG’s evolution was a multifaceted phenomena. While the Soviet Union may have driven the subjective sport with their success, the FIG and IOC codified rules in response to such performances. Global participation in the sport reflected gender, political and economic changes, supported, opposed and perpetuated by the IOC. Thus, in WAG lies a microcosm of twentieth century societies.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Olympic Studies Centre
Commissioning bodyIOC Olympic Studies Centre
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

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