Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Why we should link sports to politics

As the Arab world revolts against decades of tyrannical and often brutal rule, so the delicate balance between sports and politics was thrust into the limelight in the last week, with the cancellation of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.

In reality, the controlling Royal Family and the Formula 1 authorities had little choice but to call off the opening race of the season. It would have been difficult to justify the event once the blood of peacefully protesting citizens had been spilt, objecting against a regime that the F1 race helps to promote. Perhaps it should allow us to reflect on giving national exposure to sports in countries where the political establishment is not free or democratic. We have always been informed that Sports and Politics must be kept apart, but since the 1936 Olympic Games we have seen the dangers of dictators and authoritarian states using sports as a front to showcase their regimes and countries. Adolf Hitler used the 1936 Games to not only promote Germany’s recovery from economic ruin and its re-emergence from the ashes, but also to legitimise that regime before the eyes of the rest of the world.

No doubt the owners of Formula 1 will feel the impact of cancelling the race much less than the Bahrain government; this race was one of many in an already packed schedule, and some teams may welcome the extra time to prepare and fine tune. Sports have been used to showcase the might of emerging Arab countries for several years now, from football to cricket, from Formula 1 to tennis, Golf and more. All of these countries have used major international sports to promote themselves and their regimes.

The revolutions sweeping through the Arab world in 2011 mean that it is difficult, but certainly no longer impossible to predict where the next anti-government protests will emerge. The regimes of Tunisia and Egypt have fallen. Libya is perhaps days or maybe only hours from following them. And now Bahrain, Morocco, Oman and Yemen are seeing protests of varying levels.

Should Sports be oblivious to doubts and issues over a country’s human rights record and the political regime? Eyebrows were raised when the 2008 Olympic Games were awarded to China. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) argued that the Chinese had promised to open up. There was a hope that the Authoritarian regime would open up, that its human rights record would improve. The repression and denial on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre strongly suggests that in China, it is very much business as usual – that there has been no sign of moves towards a more democratic or free country.

One of the arguments of “Obituary” is that with access to information, why are we not learning from history? Why do we not study the mistakes of the past? The Ancient Greeks stopped all wars during the Olympic Games. While it may be too much to ask on a Global scale in the 21st century, although it certainly should not be, perhaps, just perhaps, we should link Sports to Politics. Perhaps when deciding the criteria for awarding a major sporting tournament, such words as “freedom” and “democracy” should be evaluating criteria, at least equal to infrastructure, finances etc. If a country’s politics do not stand up to the very concepts that sport promotes, then international sporting events should not be taken into these countries. We should learn from Hitler’s Olympics that these regimes use sports to legitimise themselves, and in awarding major events to them, we too are not only legitimising, but accepting Dictators and authoritarian rulers who oppress the majority.


February 28, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: