Sport and Communism

The examples of North Korea and Cuba

Authored by: Jung Woo Lee , Alan Bairner

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792548
eBook ISBN: 9781315761930
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646679


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Although this chapter is headed ‘Sport and Communism’, it might be more accurate to note from the outset that we are interested here in state socialism as opposed to democratic socialism or democratic social democracy as practised in countries such as Sweden over an extended period of time or, more importantly, communism as envisaged in the writings of Karl Marx. Our reasoning is that no country to date has witnessed the completion of all of the aims that Marx anticipated for a communist society, the withering away of the state being arguably the most significant, but by no means the only, lacuna. This was true of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states, including the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and it remains true today of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Rather than revisit those countries where the relationship between sport and the dominant ideology has been examined at length and in depth elsewhere (Riordan 1980, 1991; Riordan and Jones 1999; Dong 2003; Grix and Dennis 2012), we have chosen to focus in this chapter on two countries, North Korea and Cuba, which, at the time of writing, possess most of the characteristics of state socialism and which exhibit some similarities although they are also very different in numerous respects. Before we turn to these case studies, however, it is worth reminding ourselves of the, sometimes, difficult relationship that communists in general have had with sport and how this has been addressed.

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