Episode 40: Barcelona ’92. The New Europe at the Olympic Games

Does international sport anchor its participants into a capitalist economic system and a liberal political order? In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Leslie Waters (University of Texas, El Paso) tells Rosamund Johnston (RECET) about the Olympics’ “mixed” record in this regard.
Barcelona 1992 served as a “coming-out party” for a host of new European states. But the games equally showcased the enduring legacy of state socialist sporting prowess. Lustration tore through some national Olympic committees while, in others, post-socialist elites used the institutions of international sport to rebrand as political liberals. Ultimately, Waters argues, sportswashing is not new, and was undertaken here by hosts Spain alongside countries with a not-so-distant socialist past. She therefore reappraises the legacy of this, “most successful,” summer Olympic Games.

Leslie Waters is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas, El Paso. In addition, she is the managing editor of Hungarian Studies Review. Her first book, Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands was published in 2020 by University of Rochester Press.