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Sport and Human Rights

Sport and Human Rights

In this paper, Peter Donnelly highlights the fact that human rights continue to be violated in ways that are directly or indirectly related to sports. The author confronts the positive image of sport, built on principles such as fair-play and teamwork, with hard competition, based on social exclusion and sometimes used to foster nationalism. For instance, big stadiums have historically hosted sporting competitions, but have also been the site of militaristic rallies; even worse, the Taliban conducted public executions in the Kabul soccer stadium, in the 1990s. The author splits the issue of sport and human rights into three categories. First of all, everyone’s right to participate in sports. He insists on the fact that race, class and gender exclusion have not been eradicated in modern sport. Secondly, the achievement of human rights through sports. In this section, Donnelly studies the impact of sport on anti-apartheid campaigns. Thirdly, the relationship between sport and human rights of specific classes of persons is examined.

With regard to sport and foreign policy, it appears that governments hardly involve themselves politically in big sporting events. The main exception to this assumption remains the Olympics’ boycotts. Some states also raise the question of excluding countries from a competition, if they are violating human rights. However, they seem less reluctant to promote campaigns within their country. Gender equity, health issues and integration are the main targets of these projects. At the international level, NGOs, big sport associations and international institutions are trying to tackle these problems, along with poverty, through sport. For instance, many NGOs have demonstrated against the Beijing Olympics (2008) because of the situation in Tibet. In conclusion, Donnelly affirms that the major achievement of human rights through sport occurred in South Africa, where sport efficiently assisted the anti-apartheid campaign and contributed to the establishment of racial equity.

Read full article: Donnelly P 2008, “Sport and human rights”, Sport in Society, 11:4, pp. 381-394.

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