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Socialist spectatorship: The Friedensfahrt and champion Täve Schur

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Chapter Summary

In 1948 Czechoslovakia and Poland launched the Friedensfahrt, a long-distance cycling competition that took cyclists from Warsaw to Prague. Government efforts to cultivate a "participatory spectatorship" took two forms. First, the government encouraged as many citizens as possible to turn out along the route to greet the cyclists as they rode by. Second, the government created corollary activities over a period of two or more weeks that took place in conjunction with the Friedensfahrt; these activities enabled the mass mobilization potential of the event to stretch beyond the ten minutes when the cyclists rode by. The burst of media and government interest in and celebration of Täve Schur was astounding, especially after his Friedensfahrt victory in 1955. In the end, state and citizens worked together to create an event that went beyond being an athletic contest to become a true mass phenomenon in the GDR.

Keywords: Friedensfahrt; GDR; participatory spectatorship; Täve Schur



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