International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Sports Diplomacy: The Roles that Sports Play in Politics


Networks like ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, are not off limits to politics. I’ve always been very interested in how sports teams and networks like ESPN play a role in the global sphere.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) mentions Lance Armstrong in language not that much different from what is brought up in international justice about “truth and reconciliation commission” for the sport and the wins in his seven Tour de France titles. There are various global platforms that unveils from the publicity and reputations of various sports.

In last week’s ladies’ singles figure skating event at Sochi, there was outrage and even talks of injustice about the subjective nature of scoring methods and the possible unfairness that comes with being on home-ice. This has brought contention between South Korea and Russia, even talks about the upcoming Brazil World Cup, where Russia and Korea are expected to play their first games against each other. Similar to how certain news stations may show favoritism for a particular political party or candidate, many national broadcasting stations’ portrayals of the Olympics is biased. This brings on questions about journalism and sportsmanship.

I see sports as an important field to open up and highlight worldwide issues of injustice. It seems as though no matter how bad a country’s situation, sports will go on. Sports are a major part of a country’s economy, politics, and pride.

The range of former athlete-turned-politicians and sports figures involved in activism is a great one. Vitali Klitschko, former professional heavyweight boxer and leader of the opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party, has been active in the Ukraine protests. In the midst of political struggle for the fate of Ukraine, there have even been talks of Klitschko running for president. His brother, Wladimir, has also shown support of those demonstrating against the Ukrainian government. He has also been urging Western countries to get involved in what is happening in his home country.

There have been a lot of athletes and sporting events that have brought in awareness and active participation from fans and spectators. With talks of friendly rivalries, intense passions, and global participation in sports, this has spurred conversation and has even had the ability to ease tension to allow more conversations surrounding international news to happen.

  • How much do you think sports play in the role of diplomacy, tensions, and relations between countries?
  • How do sports allow more open discourse about politics, new political culture and international justice news in the world?

One response to “Sports Diplomacy: The Roles that Sports Play in Politics

  1. jhgmitch February 27, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    International sporting events such at the Olympics and FIFA’s World Cup are political spectacles as much as sports spectacles. The fact that they are extremely potent symbols of both internationalism on one hand and patriotism on the other explains why they are a target for political action (1980 and 1984 boycotts) and even targets of terrorism (Munich).

    Russia and Brazil are both learning what hosting a major international sporting competition means in terms of putting their domestic political situations under the spotlight. Protests in Brazil have been linked to the World Cup, and Russia was lambasted for the corruption and administrative incompetence that helped make Sochi by far the most expensive Olympic in history, in addition to getting numerous news coverage related to human rights concerns (e.g. the Pussy Riot stories).

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