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Thursday, August 07, 2014

No Holds Barred: Wolfgang Burghardt of CSIT on Workers' Sports Movement 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with Wolfgang Burghardt, the secretary general of CSIT, the International Workers and Amateurs in Sports Confederation.

Although its name and structure have changed over the years, the origins of CSIT date back to May 1913 in Ghent, Belgium. The organization has a rich history of organizing international events, including, before the Second World War, helping to organize the Workers' Olympiads.

Now in its second century. CSIT has always seen its task as serving the development of the workers' sports movement, and has maintained and developed ties to trade unions and workers as well as other individuals and organizations around the world. Since 1973, CSIT has been a member of SportAccord (formerly GAIFS), and was recognized by the International Olympic Committee on October 31, 1986. In 2011, CSIT became open to all amateur sportspeople, and broadened its scope beyond the workers' sports movement.

Since 2008, CSIT has organized an international multi-sport event called the World Sports Games.

The World Sports Games 2015 take place June 7-14, 2015, in Lignano, Italy.

We spoke with Wolfgang Burghardt by Skype Tuesday.

"CSIT is a multi-sports organization. It's a global organization with 45 whole members worldwide on three continents and federations. Meanwhile, we have about 230 million single members worldwide," he said.

"We have been founded in 1913 as a kind of counter-movement" to the official Olympic movement. "So it was the workers' movement."

He continued, "We had very interesting competitions and championships in the 1920s and 1930s, the well-known Workers' Olympics in Europe. So we had championships for 80-90,000 participants. You have to imagine, it was huge, yes, with 200,000 visitors."

Besides discussing this incredible and often forgotten history, we outlined the stages that the workers' sports movement has gone through over the last century, and where it stands today. We discussed how CSIT's events emphasize promoting peace among peoples of the world, how their focus is not elite Olympic-level athletes but amateur athletes, the development of the structure of CSIT, and their ties to many international sports organizations.

We also discussed how wrestling has been a key part of the workers' sports movement, that it was included in all three summer Workers' Olympiads in the 1920s and 1930s, and that it remains on the program of the World Sports Games, along with judo and beach wrestling.

In addition, we discussed more about the World Sports Games, the important book Sport, Peace and Development in honor of 100 years of CSIT, the historical role originally played by socialists and communists in the workers' sports movement, how no organizations from the U.S. are presently members of CSIT, and much, much more.

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