The recent book in Italian language by Armillotta and Bagozzi. The GANEFO, the world games against the imperialism of the United States and the Soviet Union and the racism of the International Olympic Committee


Review by Giancarlo Elia Valori


Before even reading the book, I spoke with the authors, and the first nucleus of interest and research, from which the vast design of this review of sports-geopolitical thought germinated, was a request for data from Bagozzi to Armillotta on December 17, 2019 regarding the hidden presence (by Italian press and sport insitutions) of Italian volleyball at GANEFO 1963 in Jakarta. The authors dedicate a chapter to it, also drawing attention to some documents found in Switzerland that are nothing short of embarrassing for the Italian sports management.


But what were the GANEFO, or Games of New Emerging Forces? Lucio Caracciolo writes in the presentation: «Because of racism of the IOC, the diplomacies of Beijing, Jakarta, Hanoi, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Cairo, Algiers, Tirane, Pyongyang, Mexico City, Havana, Brasilia, Conakry, etc., sought a world proscenium in which the sport of Afro-Asian and American countries could demonstrate their value without blackmail or political conditioning».

The dispute between the Soviets and the Chinese


The research of the two authors was accomplished in four years of assiduous and enlightened effort. The volume highlights the People's Republic of China in the then diatribe with the Soviets which forced Moscow to participate largely but with a very bad desire in this first immense success of Chinese, Northkorean diplomacy and of some European, American and Afro-Asian countries; an echo that spilled from the borders of the Far East. We look at international relations in Southeast Asia pitting Beijing, Moscow and Washington in the Vietnam War; foreign affairs between Sukarno's then pro-Chinese Indonesia and Sihanouk's neutral Cambodia, and good relations with pro-American Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia; the intimidating, but useless and pathetic attempts of the pro-Nazi Brundage who tried at all costs to put a spanner in the works of GANEFO, through the CIO controlled by white racists and terrified by the events; the CIA plots to damage, and still in vain both the GANEFO and the contemporary World Youth and Student Festivals: all proven by vast and official documentation.


In the volume there is the whole story – under the juridical-political and sports-cultural aspect – of the relations between the western IOC (including the Soviet accomplices) and the athletes of the Third World and developing countries, treated up until then like beasts: just think of the more than one hundred Chinese world records that the IOC decided from 1958 to 1979 did not exist, neither they nor the people who had achieved them. Very interesting is the criticism of Aristotelian Western supremacist thought, which the authors show was already superseded by Roman law.


Thus said by the authors, their work does not seem to require further words of presentation regarding the technical contents which are left to the Italian and hopefully foreign reader as well. To this day, and who knows how many years to come, it is a unique and irreplaceable work, both for the organic breadth of the design and for the rigor of the execution.Born from endless readings, from meticulous systematic examination, from an always direct and uncompromising investigation to the point that the unpublished (found by the authors), the inaccessible (made accessible by the authors) and the distant (made close by the authors) have not frustrated the zeal of research. The work has nothing compiler, but runs fast without ever boring. Even in the most highly specialized sectors, such as the history of international relations, the probity of the scholars protects the discussion from sudden partisan choices.


The large collections of texts, which Armillotta and Bagozzi have adopted,they are the ones we still use today. The progress has been multiple, but - from this wide angle of view - it can be said to be minute and decisive; in addition to the fact that there is to be noted the absence of any polemic ambitions, the measured and cautious tone of each assertion, the sense of open problematic, the avoidance of preconceived or exclusive theses further help to keep this work of synthesis its value as an institutional text of sure objectivity.
Every statement, every testimony, be it literary or legal or economic, illuminates by reflection the circulation and vitality of capital concepts, perfectly recalling the ideological climate of the 1960s. Beliefs and aspirations of Third World States and Developing Countries are revealed: the will of their determined social strata, to show how and when the ideas of rebellion and redemption from the nefarious power of the CIO, managed to penetrate every class until it became opinio communis.


And also in this respect, therefore, the immense effort of Armillotta and Bagozzi, aimed at collecting and selecting such heterogeneous materials, constitutes a highly relevant contribution to the progress of political and sports studies. Recourse to the parallel history of contemporary political institutions is placed in the fabric of the work even more closely and continuously, because the relationship of reciprocal action and reaction between international federations and the will to redeem peoples seems to me of truly primary interest for anyone who does not understand the history of thought as an abstract speculation and want to realize how constructive meditation on the problems of social life translates into effective solutions to those problems, while, conversely, the concrete conditions of coexistence and civil society gradually propose new themes for reflection and incessantly stimulate doctrinal evolution.


To conclude, I noticed how the authors managed to reconstruct the winners list (gold, silver, bronze medals and and all placements for team sports) of both the 1963 world GANEFOs in Indonesia (of which the 60th anniversary falls in 2023) and the 1966 Asian GANEFOs in Cambodia. The respect that the authors wanted to express must be honored towards the real protagonists of these events: the athletes, women and men. To date there have been a few short magazine essays on GANEFO, but the athletes were completely ignored. For provincial or state intellectuals who dwelt on GANEFOs, athletes didn't exist: too much effort in being able to find medals and complete placements for team sports: what counts are their pens and that's it.

Giovanni Armillotta, Marco Bagozzi, I GANEFO 1963 e 1966. Ribellione e riscatto. I Giochi contro imperialismo e colonialismo; e razzismo del Comitato Internazionale Olimpico [The GANEFOs 1963 and 1966. Rebellion and redemption. The Games against imperialism and colonialism; and racism of the International Olympic Committee], Presentation of Lucio Caracciolo, Ledizioni, Milano, 2023, pp. 348, ISBN: 978-88-5526-732-8

Anyone wishing to purchase a copy can contact (18,00 euros [plus 1,28=postage costs in Italy; or plus 8,50= postage costs in Europe; or plus 12,00 postage costs outside Europe])  






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