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1969 East Germany Japan Politics USA USSR

1969: East Germany vs. Japan’s Foreign Office

The Japanese Gymnastics Association wanted to invite East Germany to a competition with the Soviet Union and the United States. However, Japan did not have diplomatic relations with East Germany until May of 1973.

So, what would happen if an East German gymnast won the competition? Would the meet organizers still hoist the flag for a nation that Japan didn’t recognize?

Unless you lived through the Cold War, it’s hard to imagine the complicated diplomatic hoops countries had to jump through. The following article painstakingly details many of the scenarios that the Japanese meet organizers had to consider when inviting East Germans to a gymnastics competition.

The East German Flag, 1959 – 1973
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1969 Japan MAG USSR WAG

1969: Olga Korbut’s Win at the Japan vs. USSR Dual Meet

At the 1969 European Championships, Mikhail Voronin was looking ahead to the competition between Japan and the Soviet Union. However, he didn’t end up competing in the meet.

But you know who did compete? 14-year-old Olga Korbut.

And you know who won the meet? Olga Korbut.

Let’s take a look at what happened and watch some of her routines…

Länderkampf BR Deutschland, UdSSR und Kanada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Lyudmila Turishcheva (li.) und Olga Korbut (beide UdSSR) Countries struggle BR Germany USSR and Canada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd Lyudmila Turishcheva left and Olga Korbut both USSR

Note: This photo is not from 1972 — not the 1969 dual meet with Japan.
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1967 Japan Training

1967: Training MAG and WAG in Japan

What was it like training in Japan in the late 1960s? How many hours did they train? How was the Japanese gymnastics system set up? Did they use spotting belts?

Let’s take a look…

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 14: Kazue Hanyu competes in the Balance Beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Mexico Olympic Qualifying at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on July 14, 1968 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)