UBC Graduate Research

Explaining Miracles and Nightmares: Identity, Politics, and Olympic Upsets Libero, Peter


Graduate student conference held December 4-5, 2009 at the University of British Columbia. Panel 1: Score and Peace? - Revisiting the Olympic Myth moderated by Ursula Baer. Abstract: "This paper draws comparisons between sportswriters’ depictions of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” victory of the United States Olympic Hockey Team and the 2004 defeats of the United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. These events were enormous upsets, so unthinkable, in fact, that the explanations offered by American and international journalists spoke spoke much less to the actual sporting events than to the times in which they occurred. The American players, their opponents, and their respective styles of play were all imbued with meaning beyond the typical national fervor of the Olympic Games. Not merely warriors for national pride, the players’ success or failure was taken to be an indication of the nation’s foreign policy direction. Physical play and selfless teamwork became allegories, at times explicitly, for a hard line on communism and the exercise of “soft power” in Iraq. Analyzing accounts of these sporting events thus offers not only insight into the complex interaction of personal and national identity, but also a compelling argument for the importance of sport to the field cultural history." This presentation can be found at 00:18:57 - 00:37:33 in the recording.

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