The Cold War Background Information


  • The Cold War lasted from 1945-1989 and it was between the US and the USSR.
  • The United States and Soviet Union competed to be the most important and influential in the world shortly after World War 2 was over and Europe was devastated economically and politically.
  • Time of difficulties and tension, although never real war with weapons.
  • Democracy /Capitalism (US) [Private control] vs. Dictatorship/Communism (USSR) [Government control].
  • Both nations attempted to outshine each other in military, technology, ideology, economy, and physical competitions.

The Olympics During the Cold War: Background Information


  • The Olympics were one of the most important ways that the United States and the Soviet Union battled without weapons.
  • US and USSR could show the whole world how great and strong they are without actual war by competing in sports.
  • “It was kind of like the old Greek wars, when they meet in the arena and decide who is the most superior, and in this case it gave the Russians a good chance to show that they were just as advanced or just as physically good as the Western nations.” - Dr. Craig Bell- Captain US Navy (RET)
  • It was one of the only ways that any person could see how the cold war was advancing, because almost everything else was secret and private.
  • “Almost fear when the soviets won and they were moving ahead, because it felt like not only we were losing the Olympic competition, but also the cold war as well. Certainly a situation of national pride.” -Sabrina Zerphy, which was in middle school in the early 80s when the Olympics were going on.


The Olympics During the Cold War as a Propaganda Tool


  • Significant propaganda tool. Soviet Union considered Olympic medalists as national heroes.
  • Athletes in the Soviet Union would be trained for many hours every day, and the government did not even let them find out about all of the other wonders of the world but sports.
  • “there would be special trainers who would come to look for talented children for a type of sport. These children then knew only a life of education and sport” -Natasha Kuchinslaya (Soviet gymnast)
  • Instead of possibly being trained as soldiers, many citizens were trained as athletes.
  • This shows the true importance of the Olympics during the Cold War, because it was the helped fight without armed forces, and might have saved many lives.


Important Events in the Cold War during the Olympics


  • 1972 Olympics- Victory of the Soviet Men’s Basketball Team over the US Team
  • 1980 Winter Olympics- Miracle on Ice
  • The 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott


1972 Olympics- Victory of the Soviet Men’s Basketball Team over the US Team


  • The US was undefeated in basketball from 1936-1972.
  • The Soviet team won in Helsinki, and Stalin’s wishes were fulfilled. The underdog Soviet team beat the Americans in their dominant game.
  • The USA team declined to accept their silver medals after a doubtful call in the final 3 seconds of the final.
  • Ivan Edeshko, the player who threw the game-winning pass for the Soviets: " The American team was offended and it was not right. It was the cold war. Americans, out of their own natural pride and love of country, didn't want to lose and admit loss. They didn't want to lose in anything, especially basketball.”
  • Ivan Edeshko talked badly about the Americans and offended them, but it was a good thing for both countries, because they had a chance to fight without armed forces, deaths were lowered, and it was a better way to ease the tension.


  • 1980 Winter Olympics- Miracle on Ice



  • Hockey was regarded to as a Soviet game.  In a country that was experiencing stagflation, a huge oil crisis, and the hostages of some of its citizens in Iran, the United States wanted and desired a victory like it found in Lake Placid in February 1980.
  • The US team consisted of amateur college players that did not practice as much as the Soviet hockey team, that have been practicing and playing together for numerous years.
  • The US surprisingly won, and the underdogs beat the favorites again, similar to the 1972 Basketball match in Munich, only this time it was the Americans coming out victorious.
  • Eric Zerphy, a teenager during the cold war said, “people were yelling and cheering on the streets, it was as if we finally won the cold war”.
  • Eric Zerphy’s quote shows that war is not always needed, because it felt like the Americans won the Cold War, but no weapons, mass destruction, or the deaths of any people occured. It proves that nations can find other ways to ease tension besides war, like sports and competition, and as a result save fighting with armed forces.


The 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott


  • In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan
  • As the 1980 Summer Olympics came closer, President Jimmy Carter cautioned that the US would not participate in the Olympics if the Soviets did not remove their soldiers from Afghanistan. He kept his promise, and as a result, only 81 countries were in the Olympics instead of the big number of 122, which was only reached 8 years ago in 1972.
  • This disappointed many athletes who trained for the Olympics for years. However, it helped prevent more serious reactions like a war with destructive weapons or the conquering of another country by the US, which could have led to the deaths of many Americans.
  • Once again, competition proved that war is not necessary to fight with armed forces in war, and tension can be eased instead by using competition as a tool, whether it is by winning or taking it away to try to make a political point.


Information about Bobby Fischer and Chess


  • Bobby Fischer (March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008), was the United States' first and last world chess champion, and is considered by many the greatest chess player in history.
  • Chess is “a board game of strategic skill for two players, played on a checkered board. Each player begins the game with sixteen pieces that are moved and used to capture opposing pieces according to precise rules. The object is to put the opponent's king under a direct attack from which escape is impossible ( checkmate).” (Apple
  • Why is chess considered a game of intelligence? Because chess isn't just about memorizing lines and using your higher brainpower to confuse everyone, because psychology is also a big part, and logic is the giant one that can determine how good a person is at chess. Therefore, you have to think differently than everyone else and be extremely talented and smart.


Bobby Fischer and his Impact on the Cold War in Chess: a Game that is a Measure of Tactics and Intelligence


  • Chess was always considered a Soviet game, and Americans were never truly interested in it.
  • However, in the 1972 World Chess Championship Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky, the winner of 10 World Chess Championships!
  • The victory came at a great time, because the Americans were not winning the Vietnamese war, the US basketball team did not win a gold medal, and communism was growing rapidly.
  • It showed the world the intelligent and faithful American side, and shortly after the win, North Vietnamese ended the war, an Anti-Ballistic Missile agreement was signed between the Soviets and the US.
  • Some argue that Bobby Fischer’s outstanding intelligence, tactics, and faith scared the world of the Americans, and because of that many important stuff that could have saved lives, like the end of the war in North Vietnam and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty happened.
  • Some people even argue that Bobby Fischer won the war for the Americans, and not Ronald Regan. It shows the importance of competition, and that there are better way to win a war than fighting with armed forces. A simple game of chess could change the outlook of a war, put fear in the opponent, and decrease tension and anxiety in addition to potentially saving many lives due to the elimination of battle with armed forces.


What is the Lesson learned from Competition during the Cold War?


  • Competition during the Cold War taught us that war with armed forces is not always needed, because no weapons, mass destruction, or the deaths of any people occurred during the Cold War, and as a result many lives were saved. It happened since the US and USSR found other ways to ease tension besides war, for example with the help of the Olympics, Chess and other forms of competition.