The Olympic Games: Showcases of Internationalism and Modernity in Asia

Robin Kietlinski, City University of New York - La Guardia Community College

Stefan Huebner. Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913-1974. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2016. 416 pp. $42 (paper).

Jessamyn Abel. The International Minimum: Creativity and Contradiction in Japan's Global Engagement, 1933-1964. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. 344 pp. $54 (cloth).

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Over the past two decades, the English-language scholarship on sports in Asia has blossomed. Spurred in part by the announcement in 2001 that Beijing would host the 2008 Summer Olympics, the number of academic symposia, edited volumes, and monographs looking at sports in East Asia from multiple disciplinary perspectives has increased substantially in the twenty-first century. With three Olympic Games forthcoming in East Asia (Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020, and Beijing 2022), the volume of scholarship on sports, the Olympics, and body culture in this region has continued to grow and to become ever more nuanced. Prior to 2001, very little English-language scholarly work on sports in Asia considered the broader significance of sporting events in East Asian history, societies, and politics (both regional and global). Several recent publications have complicated and contextualized this area of inquiry. While some of this recent scholarship makes reference to countries across East Asia, single-author monographs tend to focus on one nation, and particularly on how nationalism and sports fueled each other in the tumultuous twentieth century. Scholarship on internationalism in the context of sporting events in East Asia is much harder to come by. However, this gap has recently been filled by Stefan Huebner’s and Jessamyn Abel’s books, each of which sheds much light on how sports (among many other events) played a crucial role in how countries viewed themselves and how they came to be viewed by others before, during, and after the world wars. While international competitions like the Olympics naturally bring to mind nationalism and intense pride for one’s country, nationalism and internationalism coexist and interact in complex ways, as both of these books exemplify...