ISSN 2330-717X

Putin’s World Cup More Like Brezhnev’s 1980 Olympiad Than Hitler’s 1936 Games – OpEd


At first glance, it may seem that the parallels between today’s World Cup in Russia and the Berlin Olympics is “more exact” than that with the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Vadim Zaydman says; but a closer examination suggests that the those between the World Cup now and the Moscow Olympiad are far closer.

On the one hand, the Moscow commentator says, “Hitler’s Olympiad was the first precedent of such type. The world still did not have in its possession such historical lessons and one can conclude couldn’t imagine that this Olympiad would be used to ‘raise Germany from its knees’ and unleash military insanity” (

That means that the international community in 1938 did not have the knowledge about how such things could play out. “And in this sense, the historical guilt of Chamberlain and Deladier, who concluded the Munich Agreement with Hitler was all the same less than the guilt of current leaders of Western countries who make peace with Putin.”

And on the other, “in 1936,” Zaydman points out, “Hitler had not yet conducted any military campaigns, hadn’t invaded any countries or annexed any territories. Putin in 2018 however has launched two campaigns, in Ukraine and in Syria and has killed tens of thousands of people.”

Consequently, the Moscow analyst says, “the world community today had much greater reason to boycott the Putin championship than they did in the case of the 1936 Hitler Olympiad.” It cannot hide behind the idea that it doesn’t know who Putin is and by refusing to boycott the World Cup in Russia it has made itself “passively complicitous in Putin’s crimes.”

Thus, Zaydman says, “the analogy between the current championship and the 1930 Olympics is more correct. Now as in 1980, the world community already had the lesson of the Berlin Olympics, now as then Russia (the Soviet Union) was involved in a military adventure, then in Afghanistan.”

The big difference is that “in 1980, the leaders of the Est had enough political will to draw the lessons of the 1936 Olympics and now they don’t”

Wikipedia in its article on Hitler’s Olympiad, the Moscow commentator continues, points out that “after World War II, [the actions] of the International Olympic Committee in the early 1930s were recognized as mistaken. The IOC issued a formal apology.”

How long will we have to wait for FIFA to apologize for not moving the 2018 World Cup? And “when will the leaders of the West apologize for their refusal to boycott” Putin’s games? Both these are important questions. But there is a still more ominous one: Will it take an intervening world war to make these things happen?

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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