“Wrestling with Apartheid”: South Africa–US Amateur Wrestling Relations, Rebel Tours, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1960–1991

in Sport History Review
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  • 1 University of the Free State
  • | 2 National Museum Bloemfontein
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From the onset, South African amateur wrestling, under the auspices of the SA Amateur Wrestling Union and its successors, was organized along racial lines and, under apartheid, it continued to cater exclusively to white amateurs. By 1970, it was suspended from the International Amateur Wrestling Federation. Denied participation in international competition, it resorted to rebel and boycott-busting tours involving a number of sympathetic countries and individuals in Europe, the Americas, and the Far East. Organized mostly clandestinely, it succeeded in offering international competition to the South African national wrestling team for almost two decades. One program, the Oregon Wrestling Cultural Exchange, was particularly strong. This US-based program generated strong opposition from the Amateur Athletics Association, the International Wrestling Federation, and several anti-apartheid organizations. It survived until the end of the 1980s, when the USA Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (1986) and the campaigns of the anti-apartheid movement closed it down.

Snyders (history@nasmus.co.za) is with the Department of History, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; and the Department of History, National Museum Bloemfontein, Bloemfontein, South Africa.