Sports Events and Diplomacy
In a highly globalized world, can big sports events such as the Olympics lead to high-level political discussions? In this article published by the Russian International Affairs Council, Dr. Tatiana Zonova shows that the meetings between U.S. President G.W. Bush and his Russian counterpart V. Putin, which were held in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, helped to appease the tensions about the situation in Georgia. Other examples are mentioned by the author, including the so-called cricket diplomacy between India and Pakistan.
Recently, many attempts have been made to politicize the realm of sport. For instance, the president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, R. Miliory, requested state officials to mobilize sport diplomacy – especially through the London Games – in order to facilitate talks at the political level. However, Dr. Zonova reminds us that the Olympics, naturally considered as a symbol of peace, could not always peacefully bring delegations together. Indeed, North Korea and South Korea marched in different columns during the 2008 opening ceremony, following the adoption of a new nuclear program by Pyongyang. One may argue that the ideologization of sports events can put the competitions at risk, especially when boycotts do not allow sportsmen the right to take part in major championships or even the Games themselves.
Nevertheless, sports diplomacy remains crucial in terms of soft power. It also aims to build bridges between different people and cultures and try to achieve a greater mutual understanding. From the sport business point of view, the author finally explains that the professionalization of the field, including the recruitment of managers and marketing specialists, contribute to promoting a positive image of sport.