Olympic Movement in former Yugoslavia

After WWII, the development of sports in Yugoslavia was heavily supported and regulated by the state and this resulted in establishment of the country as a powerhouse in a number of team sports worldwide and school sport (education through sport from kindergarten to the university sport) in general terms. Yugoslav stakeholders at that time were fully aware of the situation in the global arena of international relations, which could be described by Orwell skepticism:

“I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common people of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance), that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.”[1]

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Aron is probably more precise, stating that a football match is not simply an event pitting team against team; it is confrontation of nations through sports match (country).[1]

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Yugoslavia remained not aligned to either the US or USSR during the Cold War era, which allowed it to experiment with the best of both worlds in terms of sports development- the worker-athletes model (USSR) and the student-athlete model (USA).[1]

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The institutional support was granted to both models on all levels, including the educational system, the military, and public service). Back then, gender, racial, ethnicity, and religion was taken into account and inclusivity was sometimes excessive.[1] At the institutional level, the situation was slightly different as political background (commitments to the party) was a determining factor to be involved as a stakeholder in sports organization. Regardless of the high level of political involvement, Montenegro reaped the benefits of that development. In the spirit of Isocrates stated in Antidosis, the importance of training the minds as well (not only the body) of athletes in order to be prepared for completions:

“Are twin arts; parallel and complementary- by which their master prepare the mind to become more intelligent and the body become more serviceable, not separating sharply to kinds of education, but using similar methods of instruction, exercise, and other form of discipline. Watching over them and training them in this manner, both the teachers of gymnastic and the teachers of discourse are able to advance their pupils to a point where they are better men and where they are stronger in their thinking or in use of their bodies”[2] A similar philosophical approach existed in former Yugoslavia at that time; participation in sports (physical education, professional and recreational) was well structured (organized from national to community level) and open to everyone with focus on educational, health and community development aspects.


[1] Socialist principles introduced pragmatic plans to ensure equal representation of Yugoslav citizens no matter of religion, ethnical, class or any other differences,

[2] Isocrates, with an English translation done by George Nolin, (1929). vols 3. London and New York, vol II, pp. 289, 291

[1]Well explained in Cristoph Bertling, (2007). The Loss of Profit? “The Rise of Professionalism in the Olympic Movement and the Consequences for National Sport Systems”, Journal of Olympic History 15, No. 2.

 [1] Raymond Aron, (2001). “Peace and War; A Theory of International Relations”, Zagreb: Golden Marketing.

[1] George Orwell, (1986). “The Sporting Spirit”, in I belong to the left: The Complete Works of George Orwell, wol. XVII: 1945. Oxford, 1986, p. 441.

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