February 20 – It is often said, “sports and politics are two aspects of our society that have nothing in common.” Turns out though both impact on each other directly and indirectly.
The Olympic movement has over its history shown how sports allowed countries involved in War co-exist in Games for well over a century. See a speech made by Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee http://www.hri.org/MFA/thesis/autumn97/sport.html entitled – Journal of Foreign Policy Issues. This presentation outlines some clear issues which show where sport s and politics collide.
Let’s look at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, where the British team defied the Government at the time and participated in the Games. The current IAAF President, Lord Seb Coe was an athlete at the time. Coe faced criticism for going to Moscow as opposed to going to South Africa during apartheid. Today almost 36 years later, Coe stands by his decision even in reflection. Read more here http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z83nfg8#zc2xtfr
We could talk so much about sports and politics and politics and sports, but today in the 21st century, it is important to make the distinction between sport and politics and political interference and sports.
Sports is BIG business. Now how many times have you heard that? Well we are saying it again because it is the context with which I will be reasoning why politicians should never interfere in sports. Instead they should be guided by sports administrators who manage that industry simple for three main reasons: economic benefits, social inclusion and to make politicians look good. When you assess what those three key areas are, then you would understand that they cover the widest base of people you could ever imagine. There are a lot of other secondary reasons which can be derived but I believe those are key. Let’s examine them one-by-one.
Economic benefits in sports can come from – broadcast rights, ticketing, merchandise, endorsements among other things. This has direct impact on employment and in some cases development of physical infrastructure to host events. In the macro-economic model those areas of interest. In a developing country for example, Sports Jobs are available in Tourism, Education, Fitness and Media; while a whole host of people volunteer for some major events, the destination has a potential to earn from the diverse economic activity which normally takes place.
Social inclusion in this case covers the unifying element of sports and how it can energize folks from all walks of life to “come together” to celebrate their sporting heroes. Team sports in particular tend to have a mix of athletes from all-around and there can be massive support, especially if that team is winning. In the individual sports though, when there are outstanding performances, the support level can also be high. Teams and individuals who prepare interact with a wide-cross section of people and can positively impact on varying communities. So when an athlete/team reaches the highest level in sports, everybody celebrates.
The last and maybe most controversial of the key areas is – to make politicians look good. Sports can help solidify a politician’s reputation, identity, and social status. It can demonstrate that a politician is, at least on some level, one of us. When politicians get to share with a winning team’s celebration for example, it shows some level of passion and will endear the wider public to believe in them more. Also when a politician shows up at a local game and sits with the people, it gets them compassion from the people. It really boils down to that photo opportunity with that superstar.
Politicians, however, must see their roles as facilitators for sports development by creating and enforcing policies and programmes aimed at making sports a driving force for their economies. In 2016 and beyond, with the world’s sports industry set to grow from all accounts, it is important for politicians to understand their roles. A minister of sports for example has to sit down with sports administrators in their jurisdictions to understand the needs and create opportunities to make sports a worthwhile industry. Maybe up to a decade ago, we could call sports non-traditional, that is not so anymore and the more politicians realise that, they should be guided by the reality that sports, when well managed, can generate significant economic returns for their countries.
Politics through soft power and diplomacy have a role to play in sports; but politicians should not get involved in sports.