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Launch of exhibition, Cold War Games

March 7 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Espionage chills Melbourne’s 1956 ‘Friendly’ Olympics

Join us for the opening of our exhibition, Cold War Games, Thursday 7 March at 5pm.

The exhibition will run until Tuesday 28 May, Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm.



In 1956 the world was beset with Cold War anxieties. Tensions between East and West had been heightened less than a month before the Games when the USSR invaded Hungary to crush an uprising. Then Israeli, French and British armies invaded and occupied Egypt’s Sinai and the Suez Canal Zone. Would the Melbourne Olympic Games be remembered as the “friendly” Games, a sea of tranquillity in a stormy world, or would they become a victim of the Cold War? Keeping Australia safe from the frigid winds of the Cold War was ASIO which was busy conducting surveillance of possible Soviet agents, dealing with defectors and trying to control agent provocateurs in the refugee community who wished to damage the Soviet and its satellites.

Another threat, surprisingly came from the CIA. ASIO worried that the US spy agency would stir up trouble by urging athletes to defect, which could result in a walkout by Eastern European countries. So their agents were told not to come to Melbourne during the Games. American Cold War warriors, however, found a way around this and by the end of the Games had encouraged over 50 athletes and officials to defect; a propaganda coup for the free world.

Research by Dr Harry Blutstein.

Harry Blutstein has worked as a freelance journalist since 1972 and his articles have appeared in the Nation ReviewThe Australian, The Age, The West Australian, The Canberra Times and the Australian Financial Review. More recently he has published several books. They include An Insider’s Guide to Australia (Kummerly & Frey, 1995), Ascent of Globalisation (Manchester University Press, 2016) and his latest, Cold War Games (Echo Publications, 2017). He is also an adjunct professor at RMIT University.




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Launch Cold War GamesFree

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March 7
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV, Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288