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Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War offers a diplomatic history of the 1980 Olympic boycott. Broad in its focus, it looks at events in Washington, D.C., as well as the opposition to the boycott and how this attempted embargo affected the athletic contests in Moscow. Jimmy Carter based his foreign policy on assumptions that had fundamental flaws and reflected a superficial familiarity with the Olympic movement. These basic mistakes led to a campaign that failed to meet its basic mission objectives but did manage to insult the Soviets just enough to destroy détente and restart the Cold War. The book also includes a military history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which provoked the boycott, and an examination of the boycott’s impact four years later at the Los Angeles Olympics, where the Soviet Union retaliated with its own boycott.Read more
- Provides a multi-national, multi-linguistic, diplomatic, and sports history
- First study to use Carter administration records
- First study to use International Olympic Committee records
Reviews & endorsements
"Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Dropping the Torch will stand as the standard account of an episode that Americans might well wish to forget: the Carter administration’s clumsy attempt to lead a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Cold War historian Nicholas Evan Sarantakes has reconstructed the whole story in all its intricacies and ineptitude, revealing just how close the Olympic movement came to destruction. A truly fascinating piece of political, diplomatic, and sporting history."
Nicholas J. Cull, University of Southern California, author of The Cold War and the United States Information Agency, 1945–1989See more reviews
"Well-written, thoughtful, and detailed international history. A brilliant example of the intersection between sports and diplomacy. Sarantakes has written the definitive history of the 1980 Olympic boycott."
Mitchell B. Lerner, Ohio State University
"Sarantakes successfully blends the history of sports with international relations. He provides an excellent overview of an often ignored, but important, chapter of the Cold War, one that helped reignite the conflict fully in the late 1970s. Thoroughly researched and well written, it is highly recommended reading."
Kyle Longley, Arizona State University
"This book is a scathing critique of President Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games in response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, arguing that Carter failed as a trusted president because of his poor judgment. Based on exhaustive research into several archives, newspapers in seventeen countries, and published sources in five languages, Dropping the Torch is well contextualized with chapters on the Russian invasion, Richard Nixon’s policies on Olympic sports, and the Moscow Games. This volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the exercise of presidential power, Cold War history, and sport history."
Steven A. Riess, Northeastern Illinois University
"Dropping the Torch is one of the most engagingly well-written, well-researched, and strongly argued books I have read over the last decade. Sarantakes tells the fascinating story of America’s 1980 boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics in a manner that successfully integrates diplomatic, political, and international sports history. His portrayal of the clash between President Jimmy Carter and Lord Killanin is both dramatic and tragic and brings home the enduring issues of reconciling moral questions with international politics."
Thomas A. Schwartz, Vanderbilt University
"… an excellent new book."
Robert A. Strong, Journal of American History
"… an excellent book that should be read by anyone with an interest in the 1970's, the Carter administration, American/Soviet relations, or the history of the Olympics."
Andy DeRoche, Presidental Studies Quarterly
"… the book is engaging and thoroughly researched. Recommended."
"Strongly researched and soundly argued, Sarantakes deftly forges connections between the international athletics and high-level geopolitical diplomacy. In doing so, he has set a new standard in the study of sport and international relations … an exemplary piece of Cold War scholarship."
Thomas M. Hunt, SAIS Review
"… an engaging read that makes a meaningful contribution to the fields of sport history and diplomatic history. Sarantakes' use of the Olympic games as a lens for understanding foreign policy is a fresh and exciting perspective. Overall, he does an excellent job in demonstrating the importance of interrogating sporting events for the greater meaning they reveal about the wider world."
Robert J. Turpin, Journal of Sports History
"… unconventional Cold War history at its best."
Jeff Bloodworth, Canadian Journal of History
"Sarantakes's study is worth reading due to the rich material from a large number of archives and the attempt to focus not only on the United States, but to integrate different points of view based on newspapers and sources from several countries."
Stefan Wiederkehr, Diplomatic History
"… a well-researched, engaging, and forcefully argued book about a fascinating episode in Cold War sports diplomacy."
John Soares, Journal of Cold War Studies
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- Date Published: September 2010
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521176668
- length: 356 pages
- dimensions: 235 x 155 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.52kg
- contains: 21 b/w illus.
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
Introduction: miracle on ice
1. Lord Killanin and the politics of the Olympics
2. Los Angeles versus Moscow
3. Jimmy Carter and U.S.-Soviet relations
4. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
5. The American response
6. Easy victories
7. Painful losses
8. The White House games
9. Coca-Cola, NBC, and the defeat of the Iron Lady
10. The vote in Colorado
11. Civil wars
12. Carter versus Killanin
13. Moscow: the Olympics are the Olympics
14. Los Angeles: the Olympics are the Olympics
Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses
- History of the Cold War
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