'War minus the shooting': George Orwell on international sport and the Olympics

Beck, Peter (2013) 'War minus the shooting': George Orwell on international sport and the Olympics. Sport in History, 33(1), pp. 72-94. ISSN (print) 1746-0263


George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), wrote relatively little about sport, but is nevertheless quoted regularly on the topic. Today, his descriptor of international sport and the Olympics as ‘war minus the shooting’ has become almost a reference point for those talking or writing about sport in public life, academia or the media. More recently, Orwell’s contemporary sporting role has acquired an additional dimension, given the way in which the deliberate erasure and rewriting of the past in Nineteen Eighty-Four has featured increasingly in media and other commentaries about sporting scandals like that involving Joe Paterno. Although Orwell touched briefly upon sport in several publications, his principal text on the topic was ‘The Sporting Spirit’, an article published in Tribune in December 1945. The title’s overt emphasis upon sport obscured Orwell’s underlying political message reflecting his hostile attitude towards the Stalinist totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union; his growing recognition of the political symbolism of sport, particularly as a highly visible tool of nationalism; and his strongly critical response to the 1945 British tour conducted by the Dynamo Moscow football team.

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