Sports historian Blecking – “We have forgotten how to think of sport and war together”

Propaganda games: Berlin 1936 clearly used Germany and the National Socialists for their own purposes. (picture alliance / dpa)

“The amazing thing is that it is actually not the first war that we have experienced on our doorstep since 1945 and that we have basically completely forgotten how to think of sport and war together,” says Diethelm Blecking, sports scientist, historian and author. “So we have been precisely poled – probably through our post-heroic folk pedagogy, which we have prescribed for ourselves. We are required to deal with exactly the opposite, with sport and peace.”

The sports scientist Prof. Dr.  Diethelm Blecking

The sports scientist Prof. Dr. Diethelm Blecking (imago/Hartenfelser)

Blecking points out that the Balkan wars in the 1990s taught us how sport, and especially football, can act as a fire accelerator. The background is the game between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade, which is considered a triggering moment for the fighting and also the involvement of hooligans as mercenaries in the war.

Connections to the war in sport were also laid out earlier. Coubertin, for example, justified the end of the First World War with the Olympic Games. Some of the games were also canceled due to wars. In Germany, the connection between war and sport was denied after the Second World War because of the memory of the Holocaust.

Sport as a system conflict after the Second World War

Russia really got on the sports scene after World War II, Blecking explains. Then it became a system conflict. Russia then became a superpower on the world stage of sport, says Eastern Europe historian Karl Schlögel.

The Putin administration has now repeatedly used the games as a shadow for an aggressive military act and has generally not adhered to any rules. But Blecking still sees the importance of sport:

“One should not underestimate what it means that Russia is excluded from most sporting activities. It has been of great importance since 1952, since the Soviet Union first took part in the Olympic Games.”