THE BIG RED MACHINE: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions by Yuri Brokhin

THE BIG RED MACHINE: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Olympic Champions

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gold medals and new world records--the Big Red Machine will gladly chew up athletes, coaches, and public officials to attain its inhuman and unsportsmanly goals. Such is the theme of Brokhin's mocking, flamboyant indictment of Soviet athletics, a worthy successor to his feckless, vastly entertaining Hustling on Gorky Street (1975). Nowhere is hustling more ingrained than in the sports bureaucracy--where a coach's pay and tenure depend on producing winners and an athlete's access to American blue jeans, steaks, and tape decks depends on pleasing his insatiable mentors and masters. So what if long-distance runner Vladimir Kuts, the Olympic champion, was taken off the field on a stretcher and died soon after? So what if on the eve of the Montreal Olympics pretty little Olga Korbut was ""on the verge of a nervous breakdown."" So what if soccer superstar Eduard Streltsov found himself shipped to a labor camp for conduct that made Broadway Joe Namath the toast of New York? Athletes will continue to push themselves beyond bodily limits, will continue to credit their victories to ""the wings of collectivism""--in the words of high-jumper Valerii Brumel--because of their dread of returning to ""the status of a simple Soviet comrade,"" an all-too-real possibility that can always be used to keep them in line. Brokhin does more than savage the notion of Soviet amateurism, he points to a system replete with fixers and entrepreneurs which, 658 Olympic medals notwithstanding, trammels and victimizes talent, is often serf-defeating, and is light years away from its own slogan ""Sports Is Health."" There are plenty of case histories and while the book may not be judicious, it sure is rousing.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1978
Publisher: Random House