Posted on Jun 05, 2018

Last guest speaker Harry Blutstein is an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University. As a freelance journalist he has published feature articles in op-eds in major Australian newspapers on a wide variety of topics.    His address to us concerned the Melbourne Olympics but a side of that which was not commonly known.   Indeed his research into aspects of them are the subject of his book "The Cold War Games".   HRC was delighted to get an informal outline of that.

Table talk during Harry's address centred on personal recollections by members who attended events at the various venues in 1956.  Sure we recall Kuts from the CCCP as the headliner but also wonderful memories of the Aussie stars on the track and in the pool.

Harry explained that the background to the focus of his book, namely the undercurrent Cold War activity between the West and Russia(CCCP at the time) was at a high with the tension in Hungary and prospect of revolt against the Russian friendly regime.   In the course of the games it materialized and the fate of Hungarian athletes and other (Eastern Block) countries was uncertain-defection to the USA was one prospect and so Harry noted that intelligence officers from both blocks were clandestinely operative in Melbourne in support of or against that possibility!  Ultimately there were 46 defectors to the USA.

 Harry related many stories of   the USSR and US exploiting the Melbourne Olympic Games for propaganda.  Much of his material had been sourced from his research into old files and even newspaper articles from/about security forces(eg ASIO, CIA and KGB) at the time.

A classic portrayal of the time was the bloody semi-final water polo match between the USSR and Hungary and stories of the motives behind some of the actions of those players.