United States Sport Diplomacy under 3 Presidents

By Joe Marro

For decades, the U.S. has aimed to use sport as an effective aspect of diplomacy and cultural relations efforts with a view to establishing deep, meaningful relationships with local stakeholders.

America’s use of sports diplomacy involves the work of influential athletes, local programmes and partnerships around the globe.

Sport has played an important role in developing America’s international image. This was evident in the American boycotts of some Cold War era Olympic Games, the work of Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Billy Jean King, Arthur Ashe and NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in China.

The Sports Diplomacy Division

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush’s Administration created Sports United, now the Sports Diplomacy Division (SDD), to use sport as a way to conduct diplomatic outreach between the U.S. and countries in the Middle East.

These efforts included sending U.S. athletes and coaches overseas as well as the Sports Visitor Program, which brings non-elite athletes and coaches to the U.S. for a training and development programme.

SDD made significant strides during the Obama Administration, including the creation of two new programmes aimed at increasing access to sport participation for women and girls and developing female emerging leaders in sport.

In a 2013  study  conducted by Management Systems International and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of Policy and Evaluation, 92% of respondents said that their views of the American people had improved after participating in SDD programming.

The Sports Diplomacy Division consists of several programmes which aim to use sports as a platform for addressing foreign policy priorities across the globe.

SDD programmes have been growing and enhancing their impact. In the period from 2010 through 2013, the Sports Visitor, Sports Grants, and Sports Envoy programs all experienced significant growth.

  •  The Sports Visitor Program increased their impacted countries by 229% and experienced a 142% increase in the number of Sports Visitor participants.
  •  The Sports Grants program’s number of participants from 2010-2013 was 85% of their total participants in the eight years prior.
  •  The Sports Envoy Program had 179% more coaches and players in this four-year range than the previous eight years and reached 59% more countries than reached from 2005 to 2009.

Using sport to tackle global issues

Sports and Gender Equality

The work of the SDD is critical in improving opportunities for girls and women to participate in sport around the world.

In 2012, the State Department partnered with espnW to establish the Global Sports Mentoring Programme, which pairs emerging international women leaders with leading American female sports executives.

SDD’s Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative works to engage with underserved youth, particularly girls, in order to increase sport participation levels, raise levels of self-esteem, and increase focus on access to quality education.

This presents an opportunity for female leaders to participate in a five-week mentorship in the U.S. and allows them to bring lessons back into their communities with a view to promoting and fostering the growth of more female sport leaders.

Sport and Global Health

Physical activity has been shown to be an important part of preventative strategies to address global health. SDD works to increase physical activity through programmes like the International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI), which awards grants to U.S. non-profits working in 10 countries. This programme benefits both its international participants and U.S. non-profits, with 57 grants implemented through 38 different NGOs in the period from 2002-2009.

Since the programme’s introduction in 2002, there have been 862 Americans engaged in sport for development programmes overseas, and 1,462 foreign participants who have travelled to the U.S. to gain knowledge of the sport for change infrastructure.

Sport for Community

Since 2012, alumni from SDD’s “Sport for Community” programme  have mobilised close to 5,000 volunteers and impacted nearly 100,000 people through sports workshops, clinics, and conferences at the local level.

The Sport for Community programme partners with the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society at the University of Tennessee (UTK) to deliver these services across the country.

These partnerships with Universities like UTK, as well as the University of Kentucky’s  Global Centre for Sport Diplomacy are a sound method for delivering critical sport for development and social change programmes around the country.

These partnerships work to address pressing challenges both within the U.S. and abroad, in addition to serving a crucial role in helping to develop future leaders in the field.

American Professional Sports and Diplomacy

The United States Sports Diplomacy and cultural relations efforts also include harnessing the worldwide popularity of American sports leagues and athletes. In the past, athletes have visited countries where engagement with populations through traditional methods of outreach has proved challenging.

In early 2016, the SDD brought stars like NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to Cuba to engage directly with Cuban youth and build upon the work of people-to-people exchanges. Sport is seen as a natural avenue for engaging Cuban youth and encouraging a closer relationship between the two nations in the decades to come.

These efforts can be replicated in countries where direct public engagement is needed to foster relationships.

Along these lines, the National Basketball Association has made significant progress in growing the game of basketball and the American basketball product globally, especially in Europe and Asia. In China, the NBA has worked with the Chinese Ministry of Education to administer a programme focused on basketball and physical fitness that it is anticipated to be taken up by some 2,000 schools across China.

The U.S. government has a unique opportunity to partner with U.S. based professional sport leagues like the NBA who have already made significant strides in growing their international influence. These types of partnerships help to advance U.S. cultural relations efforts abroad, deliver key services to countries in need, and, where appropriate, help in growing meaningful relationships with governments.

Where are we now?

Despite the many successes of the SDD and the proven track record of sport for development around the world, the current Administration has proposed wide-scale cuts to the State Department’s appropriations, the federal funding source for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, of which SDD is a part.

Given the scope and impact of its programmes, the Sport Diplomacy Division boasts a significant return on investment, spending just .0001% of the State Department’s budget.

This month’s shakeup at the State Department, resulting in the ouster of Secretary Rex Tillerson and President Trump’s appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement, raises several questions for America’s diplomatic strategy going forward.

Mr. Tillerson presided over and supported proposed deep cuts to the Department’s budget and diplomatic corps. The first fourteen months of the Trump Administration have demonstrated an expected move away from soft power, creating a cloud of doubt around the role of diplomacy, including sport diplomacy and it’s place in America’s foreign policy over the next three years.

Clausewitz on ice: sports diplomacy and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games

By Stuart Murray

Introduction

The topic of sports diplomacy at the 2018 Pyeongchang ‘peace’ Winter Olympics has made headline news the world over. Newspapers, television and social media posts are full of stories about North Korean sport (sic.) diplomacy, Kim Yo-jong’s handshake with Moon Jae-in, the thawing of the frosty North/South relationship, a grim Mike Pence saying ‘we’re not playing’, and, of course, North Korea’s cheerleading squad. Most of these stories, however, miss the mark by quite some distance. There is nothing new about sports diplomacy nor anything genuine about the North’s attempts to build bridges with their sworn enemies. Dictators, it has to be remembered, love sport just as much as sports lovers or the general publics.

Sport and Diplomacy – An Overview

The relationship between sport and diplomacy can be traced back over millennia, way, way beyond the Ancient Olympiad. Games, play, running, sport are woven into human DNA, and can be evidenced across all periods of the human story. This is why modern humans still play, watch, and, arguably, enjoy running, wrestling, boxing, fighting, fishing, hunting, javelin and more.

Besides a bit of fun, sport also provides a vital diplomatic function. It sublimates conflict, transcends acrimony in hostile relationships, promotes comity over xenophobia, and helps mediate the estrangement caused by the political structures humans create, be they rudimentary or advanced. Again, this diplomatic function of sport is as ancient as the sport of running. The earliest human societies used sport for social, cultural and diplomatic purposes, especially to avoid inter-group conflict. This idea relates to the psychologist Gordon W. Allport’s classic Contact Hypothesis. Simply, sport provides a ‘level playing field’ for separated people to meet which, in turn, reduces tension, division, xenophobia, and the sort of misunderstandings that often lead to inter-group violence. From the First Peoples of Australia to ancient Egypt and the Cradle of Civilization, there is plenty of evidence of sport being consciously employed to increase contact, and, ergo, reduce the prospect of violence between disparate people, nations and city-states.

Mandela captured the diplomatic essence of sport, famously, and correctly, noting in 2000 that it “has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This statement encapsulates both the spirt and purpose of Olympic Diplomacy. Perhaps the most well-know iteration is the concept of the Truce. During the Ancient Olympiad, the Truce (Ekecheria, the Greek word for ‘a staying of the hand’) afforded athletes, spectators and officials protection while travelling to and from the Games. The Ancient Games were also an expression of Pan-Hellenism. While Sparta, Argos, Athens and many others had their military rivalries and political differences sport was something they all had in common. It transcended politics, in other words.

The Olympics

The modern Games are similar in nature, spirit and purpose to their ancient predecessor. Their architect, the French educator and historian, Pierre de Coubertin, intentionally infused them with the ancient spirit. In Paris in the year1894 – and sounding very much like a Delphic priest – he raised a glass “to the Olympic idea, which has traversed the mists of ages like an all-powerful ray of sunlight and returned to illumine the threshold of the twenty first century with a gleam of joyous hope.”

These qualities are manifest in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, though sometimes it’s hard to detect them beyond the hype, razzmatazz, politics, mascots, diplomacy and rampant, rapacious commercialism. All athletes must, for example, swear an Olympic Oath that dates to the 1920 Antwerp Summer Games. And, curiously, every aspect of the Games – from security to athlete accommodation to the rules and regulations – are infused with the ideal of Olympisim, which seeks to “create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles (IOC 2015). In such a context, Olympic sport is much more than just competing, winning and representing a nation abroad. It is a both a vehicle to, and representation of, philosophy, education, social responsibilities, and universal and spiritual ethical principles.

The Games – ancient or modern, summer or winter – also have an overt political character. While clearly a sports-idealist, Coubertin was also a savy political operator. From the outset, he knew the Olympic Games could promote sport as a spiritual and diplomatic force for good but only if it worked with, and within, a world of nation-states. “The leadership of Coubertin”, as Beacom – author of International Diplomacy and the Olympic Movement – notes, was “inherently political with internationalist aspirations,” and, “sensitive to the power of nationalist aspiration.” The Olympics, in other words, are a classic example of sport, politics, and, by extension, diplomacy ‘mixing.’

North and South Sporting Detente

This brings us back to the North/South sporting detente occurring at the Pyeongchang ‘peace’ games. Before getting carried away by all the talks of ‘peace at last’ it is important to remember a few, hard truths about the relationship between sport, politics and diplomacy. The Games unite swathes of people but, in the hands of egotistical or savvy political operators they can be used to cast a spell over the global sporting public.

First, it must be remembered that sporting mega-events are often hijacked by political leaders for jingoistic purposes. Usually it’s the host nation showing off but in the case of the Pyeongchang Games, the potentially unruly, Stalinist and kleptocratic northern neighbour has played the better, nationalist game – the olive branch offered weeks before the game, the huge military parade complete with goose-stepping soldiers on the eve of the Winter Olympics, and the charm offensive of Kim Yo Jong, are but a few examples of classic hijacking.

Second, Kim’s sister, it must be remembered is no diplomat. She is Vice Director of the Workers Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, with a remit of pumping good propaganda that venerates her basketball-loving brother, as well as the beloved State. The objective observer is left with the impression that the North is playing a complex, multi-dimensional game aimed at different audiences: domestic, Korean, regional and international.

Third, the sports diplomacy on show in Pyeongchang is not new. It is downright old-fashioned, Machiavellian and traditional. Sport is being employed – by both the North, the South and the stony-faced Mr. Pence – as a ‘continuation of policy by other means’, to borrow from Clausewitz. The North hasn’t had a change of heart or policy because of some two-week snow festival on its doorstep.

Conclusion
The DPRK policy has not changed since the time of Kim’s grandfather: survive, profit, and drive a wedge between the American, Japanese, and South Korean alliance….by any means possible, sport included. Coubertin would, no doubt, be suitably appalled and thrilled at the same time.

Stuart Murray is an Associate Professor at Bond University and Global Fellow at The Academy of Sport, Edinburgh University, and author of Sports Diplomacy: Origins, Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2018).

Sport for Development, Football and Chile: Voices from The Fútbol Más Program

By
Constanza Campos Correa
University of Edinburgh

The biography of the Chilean soccer star Alexis Alejandro Sánchez is indicative of the social and economic advantages that success in professional sport may bring to individuals who grew up in challenging circumstances. Football continues to be a social mobility pathway for the few and not the many. While wealthy transfers tend to be headline news what is less well known is the way in which football works for other people in Chile.

United Nations
The United Nations has recently (2015) provided sport with an international mandate to contribute to the 2030 Sustainable development goals. Sport for development and peace (SDP) and sport for change (SC) programmes differ from sport development programmes because they intentionally plan to deliver other outcomes through sport. One of the issues with such programmes is the lack of evidence involving participants who can testify to the extent to which the sports interventions have been effective after a period of time.

The Fútbol Más Program
The Fútbol Más Program was created in 2009, the organisation works in eight different countries along three continents, with around 5.000 kids and in 70 neighbourhoods. Their background of being an organisation created in the Global South, expanded to the rest of the world more than 10 years ago, and their international reputation, provided the perfect scenario to explore the impact of an SDP programme in Chile.

The Study
This small study explored the way in which one football programme worked for a group of young Chilean kids who participated in the Fútbol Más Program. Very few SDP and SC programmes systematically track over a period of time the benefits, successes and challenges experienced by the participants several years after they have left the programme.

This study worked with a group of nine kids who had left the programme five years ago with a view to listening to their accounts of how the programme had impacted upon their lives. This research worked with a specific group of nine young adults who, in 2012, won the national league of the organisation. The participants were between 17 to 19 years old from a small neighbourhood in the north of Chile.

Two waves or phases of analysis were undertaken. The first wave of analysis listened to the participants during three different phases of their lives in relation to the Fútbol Más Programme, before, during and after. The responses covered five different areas, education, health, inclusion and community building, mass participation in physical activity and social behaviour.

The second wave of analysis listened to feedback to the programme organisers.

The five areas mentioned above are covered in turn:

Education
One of the most important aspects observed in education is that six of the nine participants explained that they had learned new social abilities such as sociability and self-confidence with the programme and that these were especially useful and observable within the school.

These new skills gave rise to important changes in the personality of the participants, affecting them in positive ways, such as how to be part of a group, how to create correct interaction with their peers and how to express more personality within the classroom.

They described these new skills as being very useful in their day-to-day lives.

“They taught us values, so that influenced me to change some aspects of my personality. For example, I used to be very shy and I could not talk in front of the class. When I started to participate in the programme, I felt like I had more personality”.

Health
Although more difficult to measure, two of the participants described positive changes in their physical health after participating in the programme, such as weight loss and support to come through the experience of having heart disease.

In addition to this there were recorded some important changes to participants in relation to happiness and positive feeling, and in the majority of cases, those feelings were maintained over time. Consequently, the programme achieved one of their main goals, which is to contribute to the happiness of children.

“The motivation was different. I woke up to go to the school with a more positive attitude, and I waited for the Fútbol Más classes with a lot of expectation”.

Inclusion and Community Building
Participants perceived a significant change in the community as a result of the presence of the programme in the local neighbourhood.

They described a high level of the respect and support from the community towards the programme. Because of this, it could be observed that the programme created an impact in the community, integrating them into the project and creating a positive development of social capital such as stronger networks, higher levels of trust and pride in being part of the community.

Additionally, the project affords the participants the opportunity to continue in the project as leaders and monitors, integrating and creating opportunities for the young people of the community as well.

“It is a big responsibility for me to still be involved with the community, because the parents want me to be the teacher of their kids, and they chose me as the best leader one year”.

Mass Participation in Physical Activity
It can be observed from the participants’ responses that currently eight out of nine young adults practiced the World Health Organisations (2017) recommended hours of PA in comparison with five out of nine participants that were practising the recommended hours of PA before Fútbol Más.

It might be perceived that Fútbol Más has the potential to make a good contribution in the area of Mass Participation in lower class income groups, which is the social group who participate less in PA in Chile.

Consequently, the programme could be creating or enabling sustained PA participation over a long term period (five years), and helping to achieve what sport policies in many countries fail achieve with lower class income groups.

This participation in PA is created at no monetary cost. This area is important to highlight, because football, especially in an unequal country such as Chile, is a good alternative as a social tool used to tackle poverty.

At the same time, this might give rise to illusions for young children and families to become famous football players, which just a small number of children manage to do. This illusion is not the sole problem, for this illusion might also be surrounded by business and the need to pay to play in football clubs.

That it is why Fútbol Más could contribute to create a participation in Physical Activity, with no cost to the government or families.

Social Behaviour
The main findings were associated with how the programme could be a means of prevention. Judging by the responses of the participants, all of them highlighted the main values of the programme (respect, responsibility, happiness, creativity and teamwork) as an important aspect of the programme that could influence their social behaviour in a positive way.

 

Also, most of the positive responses relating to the influence of those values in their actual lives were from participants who were no longer part of the organisation.

This could suggest that the main values taught to them by the organisation creates an impact on the participants across a long term period (five years), and could be discouraging them from participating in some forms of anti- social behaviour.

“I think Fútbol Más helped me to be a better person as a player. I learned how to be modest with my achievements in football, to be more generous with my teammates and respectful with the teachers. Also, they taught me to believe in me and to be sure of what I want to achieve in my life”.

Second phase analysis
This brief contribution will limit itself to making two further observations that can be drawn from the conversations with the programme participants.

Remarkable aspects
One of the most valuables characteristics of the programme described by the participants was the academic and human quality of the teachers. This aspect is very important for the purpose of the project, because it is this strong connection and impact (generated by the teacher towards the participants) that would contribute to making it possible to the long term impacts from the SDP programme for the participants.

Possible changes
The participants were also asked about their concerns about the programme, and one of the main topics discussed was related to the end of the project. This stage was for all of the participants, a hard one to accept, even when some of them continued in the programme and had a chance to develop within a new area in the organisation.

The main frustration from the participants originated from the impossibility to compete with the programme, and, at the same time, in this stage some of the participants felt frustrated about their dreams to become a professional football player. In this crucial stage for the participants, it would perhaps be beneficial to extend the categories so that the participants could continue until they were 18 years old and further sustain sustain the development of participants, and perhaps support the young adults in this complicated stage when they are dealing with important decisions about their futures.

“I really liked the competitive part of Fútbol Más, to have matches, to try to be the best and to play with other teams. I think this aspect motivates me the most to play football and to be part of a team”.

Concluding Comment
Very little has been written about sport for development in Latin America and this study makes a small contribution in trying to contribute to the gap in sport for development research in Latin America and in this case Chile.

Biography
The researcher herself is Chilean and the motivation behind the small study was to help to contribute to an area of knowledge about Chile and provide a further basis for dialogue about SDP in a larger Latin American set of contexts.

The researcher is grateful to the many people inside and outside of Chile who offered advice, support and knowledge. The researcher has worked both as a sports journalist in Chile and a research assistant with the University of Edinburgh.

Sport for Change : Some Women’s Voices from the Street

By Grant Jarvie and Alex Richmond 

Sport for change is sometimes taken to mean sporting activities that are intentionally used to deliver social impact for individuals and communities beyond increasing participation or performance. The logic of Sport for Change needs a clear set of outcomes stating the intentional wider social impacts that intervention a, b or c aims to achieve. The ground is then cleared for initiatives that are focused upon producing change in areas such as health, education, community empowerment, justice, safety, enterprise, employability and much more.

Accessing programmes for change through sport is complex and requires an understanding of groups, contexts and individual fears and barriers to participation.

For example, Sport in Focus 1:1 provides an insight into some of the barriers facing some women from disadvantaged backgrounds aiming to access street soccer in one country.

SPORT IN FOCUS 1:1 Women’s Voices from the Street 

Self-Selection

Quite often a lack of confidence can be a barrier to involvement in street soccer

■    I challenged myself by One- getting on the bus to come here to the other side of town and two – to discipline myself to come every week because it is only 6-weeks but that is a goal in itself”

■    “It’s about balancing the stuff going on in your head and with some of the exercises deal with coordination- you can’t have that little voice in your head telling you you’re no good at it”

Fear of the unknown

Quite often fear of the unknown can be a barrier to involvement.

■    She used to do sport activities on a regular basis and she liked the community around them. So there is something to hold on to but it takes people some time to do it and believe they can do it

■    “…and going of my own experience- you’re like that sounds cool and I want to do it. But I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what I am going into. Too many fears. Too many barriers holding me back….”

Football

Quiet often football is a barrier

■    “I think that’s a difficult thing as I come from a generation where football just was not…”

■    “…. that like me when I was a kid… I was the only one that played football… the rest of my friends didn’t play…”

■    “That’s usually the first thing some say. If I speak to people, with girls about Street Soccer, they’ll say I can’t play football… I don’t know how to play football…”

Structural barriers

Quiet often the type of activity and the location of the activity can be a barrier

■    …with temporary accommodation, it is usually around the city centre so it’s not an issue to get to places. But very often when people get Council housing they are outside, so coming into the city centre without having a bus pass or being on very limited benefits, that’s a barrier itself

The practical lessons learned from change interventions are varied and context specific.   Sport in Focus 1:2 provides an insight into some of these responses around three areas: Sport for Health; Sport for Social Inclusion and Sport for Conflict Resolution and Peace.

SPORT IN FOCUS 1:2 SPORT AND SOCIAL INTERVENTION

 – Lessons to be passed on

Health

■    “Our intervention taught us to always look beyond the obvious, that we set our goals from day one with community members and that we use our child protection policy and measurable activities to ensure that we are making positive differences in children’s lives.”

■    “The power of parents, parents and dedicated community members are integral to creating community ownership of a health problem that has dramatic impact on their children’s wellbeing.”

■    “The biggest practical lesson we have learned and already shared is the use of local talent who are hungry for opportunities to learn and succeed. As Rwanda is experiencing high levels of youth unemployment participants graduating from our programmes are in desperate need to support themselves and their families, retaining them within our programme has enabled us evolve, increasing the number and quality of services while at the same time supporting local communities and national goals for youth engagement”.

Social Inclusion

■    “The single biggest learning is that the significant challenges faced by a programme and or organisation will have solutions, but you need to engage members and those involved to find solutions from within rather than look to external agencies for support. Believing in each other and providing the resources and tools primarily from within provides the platform from which sustainability is created”.

■    “Our biggest single insight is local ownership of the programme which for us involves a blend of sport development and sport for development”.

■    “We learned that volunteer coaches need more than just initial training but ongoing support to foster their development, confidence and effectiveness”

Conflict Resolution and Peace

■ “A wide network, a willingness to be transparent and strong partnerships are vital” The ethos of sharing and partnership increases our ability to help refugee”

■ “Young leaders who are free of the baggage that so many of this and the past generations carry with them are ideally placed to actively contribute to creating a more stable and peaceful society – in our context they are the fourth vital pillar of community relations”

■    “Start small- because we started small and listened to the community we could identify strengths to build on like recognizing that many people believed in themselves”

■    “While conflict resolution content is crucial high calibre competition is no less important- it helped us engage participants on a long-term basis – an essential factor in effecting meaningful positive change”

■ “We have learned that success of our intervention in a conflict environment is dependent on long term activities that adapt to change on the ground. Long term programming is essential in order to support and gauge the gradual process of perception change among people and communities”

Sport for Change

While Sport for Change can be a resource of hope for many individuals, communities and groups, it should not be at the expense of recognizing the capabilities that are demonstrably delivered through sports participation or performance, nor should it be at the expense of the role of sport in voicing social alternatives, or being a critique of the triumph of capitalism.

The humanitarian aspect of the Olympic movement should perhaps come more to the fore ahead of medals or hosting major sporting events that many cities and countries cannot afford.

There is a substantial body of work that shows sporting mega events as adversarial sites and draws these into the politics of place and time. There needs to be at least a common narrative throughout these events if they are going to live up to the promise of the term social movement or a humanitarian resource of hope.

They certainly need an alternative to the neo-liberal narrative. Forms of activism around major sporting events invariably fall into categories such as spontaneous uprisings, grass-roots mobilisation and protest and special interest groups. Such events can act as soft power through arguing for transparency, accountability, local involvement and increased capability in community outreach with measured intentional social impacts.

Their needs to be more agreed common ground about sport for change and the language of sport for change where it is agreed that sporting initiatives unwittingly or otherwise should not produce harm while any divisions within sport about the language of sport needs to be inclusive and recognise that sporting factions are stronger together than apart. We should not underestimate the capacity of sport to collapse social barriers, nor should we ignore the lack of access to sport for youth living in poverty in many parts of the world. It is crucial to acknowledge the capacity of sport to facilitate social change.

The strength of sport’s capacity to produce change lies in its popularity in different parts of the world, its capacity to symbolise graphically but more poignantly work for social and political change, acknowledge success and learn the lessons from political failures through sport. Such alternatives both influence and are influenced by different visions of a world that continues to struggle with inequality, turmoil and lack of clarity about the nature of both capitalism and democracy. Contemporary researchers, teachers and thinkers about sport in the world today, and those working with sport are having an impact but more needs to be done.

Endnote

If those supporting sport for change move Beyond Sport as it is currently operating, invoke the idea of intentionality, maximise the social tool box that is sport then it might just be that an aspirational politics of the possible might be grasped if not realised.

 

Sports diplomacy as an untapped source of globalised integration

By Stuart Murray

Sports News

Diplomacy today is much more than a rarefied, exclusive and secret dialogue between states. Governments the world over are experimenting with innovative types of public engagement such as cultural, digital and public diplomacy. These new, democratised types of diplomacy create fluid, plural and diverse networks of state and non-state actors, generate win-win scenarios via complementary partnerships, and temper the disintegration agenda. This briefing paper describes a ‘new’ dynamic type of diplomacy that is rapidly growing in theory and practice: sports diplomacy.

Framing sports diplomacy: from the ‘old’ to Version 2.0

Like it or loathe it, sport, politics and international relations have mixed since time immemorial. The Ancient Olympiad, the 1520 Field of Cloth of Gold Summit, or, more recently, the respective Olympic boycotts by the U.S. and Soviet nations during the 1980s, are well known examples. Much of this history and practice was, however, characterised by elite state actors co-opting elite sport, sports people and sporting events to advance or augment traditional foreign policy ends. Ping-pong diplomacy, the use of sport as part of the boycott against Apartheid South Africa, or the intermittent episodes of ‘baseball diplomacy’ between the U.S. and Cuba, were little more than ‘the continuation of policy by other means’, to adapt Clausewitz. As such, traditional sports diplomacy was sporadic, opportunistic, clumsy and imbued with tactless jingoistic pageantry; ‘war minus the shooting’, in the words of George Orwell.

This type of sports diplomacy endures, for international sport is often a parody of international relations, however, in the epoch of globalisation it is being supplanted by a new form of sports diplomacy, a version 2.0, if you like.

Sports diplomacy, Ver 2.0: definitions and practical examples

‘New’ sports diplomacy is a far more inclusive, amateur and networked model that embodies the type of state, non-state and public partnerships characteristic of twenty-first century diplomacy. It can be specifically defined as the conscious, strategic and regular use of sport, sportspeople and sporting events by state and non-state actors to engage, inform and create a favourable image among foreign publics and organisations, to shape their perceptions in a way that is (more) conducive to the sending group’s desired goals.

Often, a government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) acts as the hub in a diverse network composed of national sporting bodies, civil society organisations, multinational sporting businesses, and, even, influential celebrity sports diplomacy. The purpose of the MFA is somewhat retrospective: to act as a sporting ‘gatekeeper’, and to produce a whole-of-government sports diplomacy strategy that enhances a nation’s soft power image, reputation and partnerships (both domestically and internationally). Such networks can significantly boost people-to-people links, education, development, cultural, trade, investment or tourism opportunities, for example.

Many governments are developing (or refining) esoteric sports diplomacy programs, policies and strategies. Due to their love of both innovation and sport, the Americans and their U.S. Department of State’s were the first nation to take sports diplomacy more seriously. Their vanguard initiative is the Sports United programme, which was born after 9/11 as a way of engaging young, disenfranchised people across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. India and Pakistani leaders regularly engage in ‘cricket-diplomacy’ as a way of diffusing tensions over terrorist attacks, nuclear brinkmanship, and trade disputes, and there is much activity in the Asia-Pacific region as the governments of the Republic of Korea (2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics), Japan (2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympic Games), and China (Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the ongoing Football Revolution) are all seeking to engage and charm global publics numbering in the billions.

However, it is the Australian’s and their Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that are arguably leading the race. In 2015, DFAT launched the world’s first, esoteric, whole-of-government Sports Diplomacy Strategy (2015-2018). It sought to provide a dedicated point of contact, a portal, for absolutely anyone – players, coaches, sponsors, administrators, diplomats and politicians at home or abroad – with a stake and interest in Australian sport.

As Foreign Minister Julie Bishop noted at the launch, the Strategy

“signals a new era of partnership between the Australian Government and sporting organisations. Together, we will leverage our outstanding sports skills, facilities and knowledge to promote Australia and strengthen our links with countries and communities in the region.”

Where the Americans, Australians and Asian nations lead, other nations will surely follow, particularly those where sport forms a core part of their society, values and culture. Cuba, Canada, and New Zealand are all working on similar sports diplomacy strategies, as are the British, French and Italian governments, although these programmes are rather poor compared to those described above. This attitude is difficult to fathom because these nations are sitting on top of a veritable sports diplomacy goldmine.

Why sports diplomacy now?

Iran’s Fatemeh Khalaji (right) challenges Turkey’s Kubra Aydin for the ball in the Turkey versus Iran girls’ preliminary football match of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) played at the Jalan Besar Stadium, August 12, 2010. Turkey won the match 4-2. Photo: SPH-SYOGOC/Chong Jun Liang

All the nations described above are using sport as a relatively cheap means of improving their image, credibility, stature, economic competitiveness and (they hope) ability to exercise agency on the international stage. The reason behind such growth in practice of sports diplomacy is simple: sport, like music or art, is a universal language that effortlessly overcomes estrangement between so-called disparate peoples, nations and states.

Everyone – from the Inuit to the Somalians and Scottish – all speak this language, for it literally woven into the human DNA (as evolutionary anthropological studies have proven). Sport endures as a powerful diplomatic tool that can sublimate conflict, promote comity between old and new enemies, break down stereotypes and stimulate more tolerant attitudes. Working in tandem with traditional diplomacy, sport is therefore no longer a niche area ‘below’ government but an increasingly relevant soft power tool for modern diplomacy. The ‘sportscape’, to use Manzenreiter’s term, is truly global, generates trillions of dollars, and affects billions of fans, players and coaches.

Embedding sport as a regular, conscious and proactive tool in a state’s diplomatic arsenal is beneficial for many other reasons: it can transcend acrimony in diplomatic relationships, bring ‘estranged’ leaders together, offer informal pathways beyond staid, formal venues of diplomacy, generate massive public diplomacy opportunities, amplify a state’s diplomatic message, culture and values, and unite so-called disparate nations, states and people via a mutual love of pursuits centred on physical exercise.

Part of the attraction in using sport as a form of diplomacy is also practical – it is low-risk, low-cost and high profile. And, by experimenting with new means to old ends, the culture of a state’s diplomacy can change from aloof, hermetic and ‘dead’ to one that is advanced, innovative, very public and even fun. Sports diplomacy also dovetails neatly with other new forms of diplomacy, chiefly public and digital diplomacy (the latter being the use of digital media platforms to exponentially increase the number of recipients for a diplomatic message). And, finally, sports diplomacy is difficult to object to? After all, who can be against sport, or diplomacy?

The final whistle

History demonstrates that both sport and diplomacy are powerful civil, civilising and civilised institutions. They are not, however, perfect. Classical, traditional diplomacy remains a complex, zero-sum game loaded with cabal, intrigue and secrecy. This is, however, the nature of a competitive, anarchic international relations system dominated by retrospective, Westphalian states obsessed with survival, by any means possible. Sport too has its issues. The observer need only think of FIFA under the extraordinarily unethical tenures of Presidents Havelange or Blatter, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bidding scandal, or, more recently, the 2016 World Anti-Doping Agency report that accused more than 1,000 Russian Athletes of ‘benefitting’ from state-sponsored doping. Sadly, international sport continues to be associated with graft, violence, and cheating.

Just as sport can bring people together, it can also drive them apart. But, transgressions from ideal of diplomacy and sport are the exception rather than the rule. In other words, both sport and diplomacy do far more good for international society than harm.

Compared to some of the major issues in twenty-first century international relations– terrorism, poverty and climate change, to name but a few – sports diplomacy is a generally positive phenomenon. Granted, many states will continue to use sport to further self-serving national interests and foreign policy goals, however it is important to remember the core, diplomatic components of sports diplomacy: to overcome separation between separate peoples, nations and states, to generate mutually reciprocal ‘soft’ outcomes, and to reduce misunderstandings between ‘them’ and ‘us’ by demonstrating strangers speak a shared, universal language of sport. For the most part, sports diplomacy fosters peace, comity and unity.

From the ping-pong tables of Beijing to the front row of the Estadio Latinoamericano where Barrack Obama, the first US President to visit Havana since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and Cuba President Raul Castro, watched a few innings of a friendly baseball match between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team, sports diplomacy continues to demonstrate significant potential to bring nations, leaders and people together.

More and more states are implementing sports diplomacy 2.0 programs and, as such, its short-term future looks assured. In an age sullied by disintegration, parochial xenophobes, global terrorism, financial crises, overpopulation and resource scarcity, sporting exchanges and innovative diplomacy between nations, states and people should be fostered and encouraged. Sports diplomacy is one of the genuine success stories of the globalised era.

Recommendations for governments

For those nations that have not yet considered a sports diplomacy strategy or policy, the following considerations might pay dividends:

– Ensure a working group composed of theorists, practitioners and experts from both the realms of sport and government is formed.
– The question guiding initial discussions could be “what role has, does and should sport play in our diplomacy, foreign policy and international image, reputation and brand?”
– It is also important not to confuse sports diplomacy with public diplomacy (or, indeed, to hierarchically disaggregate sport as part of a broader public diplomacy strategy).
– A rich and passionate repository of expertise, funding, experience and partnership is to be found in the non-state sporting sector. Strive for reciprocity: governments get access to extant sporting networks, while non-state sporting actors gain a legitimacy and credibility as a state-partner.
– Related, many non-state sporting actors are already agents, symbols and architects of globalisation. Sporting brands and icons such as Adidas, Nike and Body Armour, or Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, and Sebastien Vettel, or clubs and teams like F.C. Barcelona, F.C. Bayern Munich, or Manchester Utd (which claims to have global fanbase numbering 650 million), are all good examples of established, global resources that are often glad to work with the state.
– Sports diplomacy works just as well in domestic, intra-state contexts as it does in inter-national environments. The Australian government, for example, uses sport to overcome systemic estrangement with the indigenous First Australians, the Papua New Guinean female Rugby League team are powerful ambassadors for women’s rights within one of the most patriarchal societies on the planet, and, many European football teams serve as valuable sporting ambassadors in overcoming social problems created by recent waves of mass immigration.

Stuart Murray (@Diplomacy102) is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Bond University, Queensland, Australia, an associate editor for the Diplomacy and Foreign Policy journal (Brill), and a Global Fellow at The Academy of Sport, Edinburgh University. He has written widely on ‘innovative’ diplomacies, is a member of a group of academics from around the world devoted to advancing sports diplomacy research, and has consulted and advised several governments and non-state sporting actors on sports diplomacy policy design, implementation and review. He also still plays football, badly.

smurray@bond.edu.au ; Twitter – @Diplomacy102

Selected references

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT. 2015. Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Dichter, Heather L. and Johns, Andrew L. Johns (eds). 2014. Diplomatic Games: Sport, Statecraft, and International Relations since 1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,

Grix, Jon and Donna Lee. 2013. “Soft Power, Sports Mega-events and Emerging States: The Lure of the Politics of Attraction”. Global Society 27(4): 521-536.

Jarvie, Grant, Murray Stuart and MacDonald Stuart. 2017″. Promoting Scotland, Diplomacy and influence through Sport”. Scottish Affairs 26 (1): 1-22.

Murray, S. (2016). Sports diplomacy. In Costas Constantinou, Pauline Kerr and Paul Sharp (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Diplomacy (pp. 617- 627). London: SAGE.

Murray, S. (2017). “Sports Diplomacy in the Australian Context: Theory into Strategy”.  Politics & Policy 45 (5): 1-21.

Pamment, James. 2016. “Rethinking Diplomatic and Development Outcomes through Sport: Toward a Participatory Paradigm of Multi-Stakeholder Diplomacy”. Diplomacy & Statecraft 27(2): 231-250.

Rofe, J. Simon. 2016. “Sport and Diplomacy: A Global Diplomacy Framework”. Diplomacy & Statecraft 27(2): 212-230.

Small steps can make a big difference

By

Pete Allison

Penn State University and the University of Edinburgh

European press coverage of the Middle East often portrays images of a war stricken region where women are oppressed and religious values contribute to intolerance. If dominant press narratives of the ‘middle east are not challenged the chance to provide alternative visions of this part of the world is problematic.

Sport has long since been used as tool for personal and social development (PSD)- something that this author strongly supports. I am interested in the contributions that sport can make to society and have spent much of my life leading and researching interventions that invoke the power of outdoor sports, expeditions and education.

Connecting cultures

In 2005 Mark Evans MBE was working as a Geography teacher in Saudi Arabia. Becoming disillusioned with UK media coverage of the Middle East and its incongruence with his own experience of living there he decided to advocate change.

A year later, several meetings with Kofi Annan (then secretary to United Nations) and the Sultan of Oman saw the start of Connecting Cultures (CC). A proactive approach to bring together young people from different countries across Europe and the Middle East to learn about each other’s cultures and carry that learning back to their communities and forward in their lives.

National UN offices identify future leaders through their in country networks and encourage them to apply to join a CC programme.

The hearth councils
The idea draws on TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who explains in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. 

“For the ordinary Arab, the hearth was a university, around which their world passed and where they heard the best talk, the news of their tribes, its poems, history, love tales, lawsuits and bargainings. By such constant sharing in the hearth councils, they grew up masters of expression, dialecticians, orators, able to sit with dignity in any gathering.”

The road from Oman: process, dialogue and outcomes
Successful applicants join 17 other young people (all from different countries) in Oman for 5 days of walking and talking in the Desert. This is definitely NOT boot camp. Bags are light, support vehicles work hard and all systems and structures are designed to maximise discussion and debate. Walking for around four hours every day in the Desert participants walk in pairs, small groups, ride camels and sometimes walk alone to reflect on their learning thus far. Questions are provided and afternoon workshops in the shade during the heat of the day focus on topics such as stereotypes, values, culture and community, media, dialogue and world leadership.

The ends is a focus on personal action, contributions to local community and how individuals or groups can ‘do their bit’ to make the world a better place.

At first sight this may seem a simple model … but there are multiple complex processes at play.

As a researcher this has challenged my own thinking about numerous methodological challenges. What is success for a programme like this? On what time scale? What can reasonably be attributed to the programme? People who go are a self-selecting sample – does that matter? How to frame the work – sociologically, psychologically, and philosophically. Which body of literatures both from inside and outside of communities to draw upon – international relations, expeditions, outdoor education, group dynamics, youth work, youth studies, peace building, tourism, recreation and more.

One answer is that all or any of these might be useful considerations and if money were no object then drawing upon all of them as part of a large mixed methods piece of work would be ideal.

How others see us and different ways of knowing
Above all – through thinking about this work and enjoying the process of pondering different epistemic choices I am reminded of the value of multiple different ways of knowing.

Especially important when working across cultures and in contexts that are under researched and in some ways novel.

Sometimes the most meaningful things are the most challenging to research. Some people might say that it is not possible to research this kind of work empirically but the purpose has never been to just gather evidence, frame arguments and advocate and lead change but rather the dependent and inter-related nature of all of these.

Sport, China and Diplomacy: Beware of your own reflection!

By Stuart Murray

Post Beijing 2008, sport in China has continued to gain considerable attention. The growth of football, the part that China has played in developing sporting infrastructure in Africa and the development of a national fitness programme are but three post 2008 examples of activity.

Sports News

Both theorists and practitioners have become quite animated about the potential of China’s burgeoning domestic sports economy, impending sporting hegemony, and its use of sport as a tool for projecting both hard and soft power abroad.

Popular assertions are common place:

• China is building 20,000 football academies;
• Its domestic sports economy is set to grow twenty percent every year for the next twenty years;
• 200 million people watched the Lakers/Heat game;
• Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Some of this is true – many Chinese do love basketball – but some of this is illusory, has still to happen and is typical of outsiders thinking and projections about China.

This researcher recently visited Beijing and, typically, imported the attitude alluded to above. It had been eight years since my last visit and this time I went there as part of the Alan Chan Fellowship Exchange, to fulfil commitment to invited lectures, liaise with old and new colleagues and, primarily, gauge the interest in the theory and practice of sports diplomacy, a growing area of soft power research that has been utterly dominated by western people, clubs and nations.

What I witnessed and learned, and wish to share in this Academy of Sport blog is simple: our outside view of sport in China is problematic. Should lovers, evangelists and profiteers of sport wish to truly unleash the potential of sport in China then an inside perspective is really important.

In this contribution three observations from recent fieldwork are offered.

Sporting habitus

Firstly, China has a long way to go in terms of sporting habitus. Unlike the UK, or my second home, Australia, there are few wide, open and green spaces sanctioned for sport. In the many peregrinations around the capital, I did not see people jogging, or cycling (road bikes, that is), any football or rugby pitches, or swimming pools or tennis courts. My hosts assured me ‘they were there’, then pointed me to Olympic Park, The Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube.

  • The Olympic Park (see below) is awesome- 1200 hectares of sprawling, meticulously planned sporting architecture and facilities.

It is inspirational to meander around the wide, open spaces of Olympic Park, dreaming of sport. However, the 2008 Games, as was intended, creates the illusion of an advanced sporting nation. Outsiders often forget that China is still a developing country with far more important matters to attend to than sport. One such matter is the smog mainly caused by China’s heavy manufacturing industry. It’s difficult to run around and do sport if you can’t actually breath.

The amount of ‘blue sky days’ have dramatically increased over the years but the smog alludes to a key problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): balancing ongoing economic growth with social wellbeing, health and sport. China is reaching the end of a rapid and epic period of modernisation and industrialisation (between 2011 and 2013, for example, China “used more cement that the US used in the entire 20th century”).[1] Sport will come in China, but it will not happen overnight. The idea of a huge, new market for sport is just that: an idea. Such a market does not yet exist. It’s not that the playing fields are empty. There are no fields.

Has a bag of money ever scored a goal?

Secondly, when thinking of sport in China, much has been made of President Xi Jinping’s love of, investment in, and aspirations for Chinese football. The most powerful leader since Mao, Mr. Xi has repeatedly stated his desire to improve the Chinese Super League, conducive to turning China into a “soccer powerhouse…that will ultimately lead to China not only hosting the World Cup but winning it.”[2]

$850 billion is to be invested over the next decade, foreign companies and labour continue to be acquired, and the Party is set build the fabled 20,000 Soccer Academies over the next five to ten to twenty years (who knows?).

Again, some of this is true. Mr. Xi does adore football (the Core Leader is a Manchester United fan, apparently), the Ministry of Education has plans for 20,000 primary or middle schools specialising in football by 2017, many foreign players, coaches and clubs are pouring into China, and, after the Qatar debacle, China has a very good chance of, at least, hosting a World Cup either in 2026 or 2030. However, can a nation buy success in football? The vast amounts of money poured into the game by oil and gas rich Gulf states, or the failed MLS experiment in the 1970s suggests otherwise. (Remember the New York Cosmos and Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto?) It will take a least a generation to produce the Mr. Xi’s envisaged army of 50 million school-age players and, even then, there is no guarantee they will be any good. Once more, time will tell. What is certain, however, is that pouring money into football rarely works.

As Johan Cruyff once adroitly noted, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”

Sports diplomacy with Chinese characteristics

Thirdly amongst the people I spoke with, there was much interest in sports diplomacy, that is, the conscious, strategic and ongoing use of sport, sportspeople and sporting events by state and non-state actors to engage and inform foreign publics, conducive to maximising “people-to-people links, development, cultural, trade, investment, education and tourism opportunities.”[3]

A growing area of theory and practice for western nations such as America or Australia, many of the Chinese academics, practitioners and students I spoke with seemed genuinely enthusiastic of developing a similar strategy, with Chinese characteristics. The 2008 Olympic Games, where, in a matter of weeks, China dramatically altered billions of public perceptions around the world, remains a very proud moment for China.

2022, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, will prove another interesting sports diplomacy experiment. Watch this space! Many were also keen to remind me of China’s “stadium diplomacy”, where China has either built or donated stadiums or facilities in dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.[4]

If we ignore mass, western media, an inside view confirms that China is already a master of diplomacy, a paragon of civilisation, and an exemplar of Bull’s International Society. Of course, the Party and nation, like any other party or nation, has its issues, but China is very well placed to develop into a leading practitioner in the use of sports diplomacy.

A land of sporting oddity and mystery

 For the outsider, China remains a land of sporting oddity and mystery. Sitting in your hotel room, flicking through the channels while craving sport, it is odd to note the absence of any indigenous Chinese sport being broadcast. It’s easy to watch European football or American grid iron but virtually impossible to watch a bit of wu shu (kung gu, to us outsiders), taijiquan (shadow boxing), xiangqi (highly addictive Chinese chess) or, my favourite, the strangely addictive qigong (deep breathing exercises). One wonders then, is the flood of western sport trampling traditional Chinese sport, games and exercise?

If so, this is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Alisports – the sporting arm of Jack Ma’s massive Alibaba group – has recently agreed to broadcast the FIFA Club World Cup, American NFL matches, International Boxing and, most recently, Oceans Sports & Entertainment to promote match poker in China. This all seems quite odd, and could suggest that many Chinese prefer watching sport to playing it, or that indigenous Chinese sports aren’t widely enjoyed. Again, generally, the Chinese do not seem, unlike the Europeans or the Americans, with their rough, combative sports, to need to sublimate conflict on the metaphorical pitch or stadium battlegrounds.

At times, as many visitors to the Middle Kingdom experience, Chinese history, culture and society seem that much more civilised than ours, more harmonious. I dare anyone to wander the Forbidden City at dawn, or the Temple of Heaven and suggest otherwise! Harmony is everywhere, even in their attitudes toward sport. “It’s why we like ping-pong,” Professor Zhang Qingmin of Peking University, the country’s leading diplomatic scholar, told me. “There is a net and a table in between us and our opponent,” he added with a smile.

The future?

Looking ahead, two things are absolutely certain. First, the CCP and not outsiders will shape the country’s sporting future, however uncertain or odd it may appear. Second, we westerners still fail to understand China (and I include myself, here). Even when promoting something as benign and positive as using sport as a diplomatic tool to promote peace or development, I was constantly reminded that China will determine its own future, be that political, economic, and sporting. Indeed, uniqueness, mystery, and independence are China’s great strengths.

As such, even when in country, we outsiders remain ‘estranged.’ We do not know China; perhaps we never have. Not long after I arrived, when I was still jabbering on about how big sport in China was set to become, a young Chinese basketball player said to me, in gentle, harmonious tones,

“be careful when you look in the mirror, for all you see is your own reflection.”

How very true. Outsiders seeking to understand the role sport could play in Chinese society, international relations and diplomacy would do well to remember this.

Stuart Murray is Associate Professor at Bond University, Australia and a Global Fellow with the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport.

And I thought Apartheid was over…but it is a global condition?

By Cora Burnett

University of Johannesburg, Professor and Director, Olympic Academy

& Global Fellow University of Edinburgh, Academy of Sport

Having been in the space of sport for development (SfD) for more than two decades, I have met amazing scholars and continue to engage with them around a common interest – SfD in Africa. In this field, context is everything. Over the years I have shared the forum for vibrant public discussions with some of the most informed and some of the most uninformed about the conditions of my country and continent.

2015-02-04094111FootballLandscape3

I would like to raise five main issues concerning: i) the documented ‘under-representation’ of African scholars and their research outputs; ii) research on filtered realities in support of the academic argument; iii) the focus on neo-colonial practices without capturing the voices (sense-making) and praxis of the affected populations; iv) the lack of critical introspection; and v) exclusionary practices.

For some, Africa represents an abstract collective of ignorance, backwardness and not ‘yet there’ phenomenon. As academics from non-first world countries, African scholars are often invited to contribute to discussion and debate but often solely about ‘context’. It seems that scholars from the Global North’s insights are recognised first and foremost in advancing first world discourses through the ‘production of (new) knowledge’. Mapping the field of SDP work, shows the small proportion of scholars from Africa whose work has been published in high impact research journals, whilst scholars from the North are increasingly conducting research on Africa and, in some instances, they have the arrogance to explain this by stating that local expertise does not exist.

The statistics tells a story. Cronin found 20% or 27 reports of all research to be conducted in Africa with five of the researchers living in Africa. In another analysis by Schulenkorf, Sherry and Rowe an even more dismal picture emerges. Of the total published research 73% of all authors were from Europe (37%) or Northern America (36%), whilst 8% authors were from Africa contributing to 9% of publications.

The latter was reported in 2016 which contradicts an analysis I conducted last month. I found at least triple the number of published research from authors in Africa, although not all 63 papers were strictly categorized or had keywords indicating a Sport-for-Development domain search. The under-representation raises some questions on many accounts. Such analysis contributes to the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ of an absence of Sport for Development researchers delivering quality research in Africa which may partly explain the absence in ‘other’ circles as well.

For many years, I have been silent about this issue. Discussing how some First World academics constructed and built stick figures for critical work on ‘neoliberal’ practices has become ‘entertaining’ lecture material in post-graduate classes. Notably, many of these first world academics come to the same conclusions. Some discover the complex truth based on a few interviews, blog or face book material, reducing the complex reality to build a case that would serve their particular flavour of ‘critical analysis’; or, they argue for the inclusion of ‘local voices’ (captured as an additional data set).

How can some academics be so sharp, intellectual and blind all at the same time? What about real reflection? Why construct hyper- or filtered realities and ‘lamenting’ on the unequal power relations, ideology and structures that in the first place continue to perpetuate SDP work without addressing the root problems to which they (possibly unintentionally) contribute? Why is most work pitched at the level of the recipient such as women and girls, who ultimately benefit little through endless temporary initiatives aimed at their empowerment and improved self-worth and self-esteem?

One must question who is actually benefitting from such programs when women and girls eventually return to real life and real conditions that render their newly founded power relatively meaningless. What about action? What about the authentic truth? What about real inclusion and collaboration on equal partnerships?

I intentionally did not quote the work of scholars as I think we should all reflect on our own academic practices. A recent ‘practice’ which mirrors many others, is a forum of invited and influential experts within the field of SDP that will gather in March 2017 at the University of Illinois. Of the invited experts, all but four are from Northern America and none are from Africa. Another example that rings hollow when talking about ‘human rights’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘partnership’ within academia, relates to invitations to publish in open source journals where the cost of the author’s contribution is completely out of the reach of many African scholars. Yet, as an African-based scholar I am repeatedly asked, and as a professional, often contribute, by reviewing the manuscripts of first-world scholars.

As South African academics we face violent student demonstrations, such as the Fees Must Fall Campaign and other poverty-related issues, on a daily basis. Conditions necessitate that we must work as relative generalists due to cash-stripped universities of which some provide up to three meals per day to needy students. We do not have the luxury of funds for large scale longitudinal research projects and associated opportunities to pay-to-publish, or to attend international conferences.

Nor, do we have the advantage of extensive and well connected networks of specialist colleagues for support. When I received some recognition from U21 universities at the end of last year, I tried to mask my level of indignation by merely stating: “Researchers from the Global South are obliged to unearth new ways of knowing with a voice that matters in academic discourse.”

I may have stepped on important toes, but I trust I can count on those academics who are committed to integrating their humanitarian beliefs to create a more just society and a truly genuine, inclusive scholarly community. Sometimes it seems that apartheid is alive and well amongst those scholars who live by some sense of their own objective morality yet, remain unaware of the meaninglessness of their detached, highly abstract but well-articulated arguments.

References: 

[1] Cronin, O. (2011). Comic Relief Review. Mapping the research on the impact of Sport and Development interventions. Manchester, UK: Comic Relief.

[1] Schulenkorf, N. Sherry, E.  Rowe, K. (2016). Sport for Development: Ann integrated literature review. Journal of Sport Management, 30, 22-39.

Sport, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: Cause, Cure and Compassion?

By Professor Michael Ego
University of Connecticut- Stamford

The text below was developed from the address presented at a one day symposia on Sport, Dementia and Mental Health hosted by The Scottish Football Museum in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.

Dementia can be caused by a number of different diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease. The cognitive and functional losses are exacerbated by stereotypes and stigma – as the world sees a person almost totally lost once he or she receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis – lost both to themselves and to those who love them.

The stigma attached to dementia can be observed when the general public’s body reactions to the word when it is pronounced before them. Some associate dementia as a contagious disease (i.e. infectious) and steer away from any physical proximity, just in case they may catch the disease. Others will not admit that there is a friend or relative with the disease, since it would show shame about their family. Fact: Dementia is not an automatic condition of human ageing.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses have a devastating impact on American society and culture – impacting an estimated 5.2 million American citizens each year. The media coverage of this disease has primarily focused on the Cause and the Cure – with the third C – Compassion – mostly seen as third fiddle in the discussion.

The research that has been conducted on the Cause have pointed to what is considered “risk factors.” Age is one factor, in that persons over age 65 are likely to have the disease, as compared to during young adulthood or middle adulthood. Family history portends that persons who have a parent or sibling who has the disease are two to three times more likely to develop the disease, but not a guarantee that genetics is the cause.

The third category is lifestyle patterns, that include head injury, lack of exercise and a healthy diet, avoidance of tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, staying socially active, and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities, and there is an association between heart health and brain health. In summary, there is NO evidence that there is a definitive causation that may PREVENT someone from developing the disease.

The “C” that has got most of the attention is Cure. Although there are some drugs that been developed to ameliorate the disease in the early stages of diagnosis, as of this time, scientists have not been able to discover the proper drug to cure the disease. Recently, there was an announcement by one of the pharmaceutical companies that a highly anticipated “trial” for a drug that might cure the disease was not successful. So, we are still awaiting good news about a discovery as a cure to dementia.

The third “C” is Compassion. During the past four years, I have been investigating the reasons for the third “C” being seen as an afterthought, in most cases. Of course, American society wants to know what causes the disease, and also the cure that will save people’s lives. But, unfortunately, Compassion is not shown by those who do not have the disease, towards those that do, nor towards the families with a person with the disease.

I began to investigate how Compassion was displayed regarding dementia by countries around the world. I found there is attention being given to non-pharmacological interventions to enhance the quality of life for those individuals with dementia. Sports and related activities have made a valuable contribution to provide experiences that are beneficial to the lives of persons with dementia.

In my exploration of societal efforts that demonstrate Compassion led me to Scotland. There, starting in 2009, socialization programs were initiated to enhance the quality of life for men with dementia.

The programme, entitled “Football Memories,” was begun by Michael White, who had several friends with dementia, and who also were soccer fans. Since the inception of “Football Memories,” there are currently 185 support groups, consisting of volunteers throughout Scotland (a population of 5 million people), who offer similar memories programs in Golf, Rugby, Cricket, Shinty and Movies.

I suggested In November 2016, at a symposium  hosted by the University of Edinburgh (Academy of Sport and the Global Health Academy) and the Scottish Football Museum that Scottish society understood the challenges and struggles of those with dementia, and were responding with Compassion through the socialization programmes. I was particularly struck by the way the challenges were being met in terms of dealing with, and helping people living with dementia through the medium of the Gaelic language – materials being prepared bilingually and work being done using both English and Gaelic where appropriate. This was highly cost effective and beneficial to a significant number of people.

In comparison, in the United States (with a population close to 325 million people), I have found two programs that have initiated sports memories programs: the Baseball Reminiscence League in St Louis, MO, and the BasebALZ League in Austin, TX). I have observed both programs and there is a genuine display of Compassion by the volunteers and the sponsoring organisations. In January, a third Baseball Reminiscence League will begin in Cos Cob, a collaboration between the River House Adult Day Care Center and the University of Connecticut.

In conclusion, I am not advocating that we dismiss the two C’s – Cause and Cure. We must continue to explore both dimensions that will help us to prevent dementia and to find a remedy for the disease. As we await the answers to Cause and Cure, let us show Compassion to those who have the disease and for their families and friends.

48 years to the day & anti-racism vigilance still needed in and through sport

By Grant Jarvie

October 18 1968

In the course of 48 hours, Tommie Smith and John Carlos went from being celebrated to hated by many Americans. Two days after winning gold and bronze in the 200 meter sprint at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, both were suspended by the United States Olympic Committee for protesting against the racism experienced by black Americans and others.

As the national anthem played the pair bowed their heads and raised black gloved fists to bring attention to the injustices of black Americans. The athletes were stripped of their credentials and forced to leave the Olympic Village. At home they would receive death threats and finding employment became harder.

October 18 2016 

48 years on and the anti-racism actions of Smith and Carlos continue to be echoed by Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have begun kneeling and or refusing to stand during the national anthem in protest against the brutality and killings experienced today in the US by so many black Americans.

Players from several NBA teams have locked arms in a sign of unity before recent exhibition games. The Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, Lakers and Kings have all locked arms during the playing of the national anthem. The gesture comes at a time when athletes in many sports at many levels are protesting racial inequalities and instances of police brutality.

The movement began when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem. The NBA has a collectively bargained rule that states that all players, coaches and team staff must stand during the national anthem.

48 years on and anti-racism actions in and through sport are still needed in a world that is far from being a level playing field both in sport and society. 

Grant.Jarvie@ed.ac.uk