Links between Sport, Leisure and Culture
Several key issues can thus be identified that highlight the interconnections between sport, foreign policy and cultural diplomacy.
Let us first consider the links between sport, leisure and culture. For better, and worse, modern sport is part of the cultural fabric of advanced industrial societies. Irrespective of questions of high or popular culture, modern sport is part of the body style practices and cultural choices of people in civic society. These practices are, nevertheless, contoured and shaped by gender, class, ethnic and other fault lines of societies. They are also patterned by the actions of nation-states, by both the domestic and the foreign policy objectives pursued and the cultural strategies adopted. The bidding for and claims legacy of hosting mega-events is a case in point.
Secondly, this state of affairs is nothing new. Two interconnected processes, as noted above, underpinned the emergence and global diffusion of sport in the late nineteenth century: nationalism and internationalism. The anthem, the emblem and the flag were as much part of cultural ceremonies of global sport as were the claims made for the power of the modern Olympics to spread a message of internationalism.
Irrespective of questions of high or popular culture, modern sport is part of the body style practices and cultural choices of people in civic society.
Then, as now, new nations would seek to join the IOC and FIFA as well as the League of Nations or the United Nations. In the context of multi-sport events such as the Olympic Games inter-state relations were being exercised – albeit in a less sophisticated way than now. A prime example of how sport, cultural diplomacy and foreign policy intertwined was in the context of the formation of the British Empire Games (BEG). Held, for the first time, in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930, the British Empire Games sought to tie the economic, political and cultural ties of the Empire together.
The anthem, the emblem and the flag were as much part of [...] global sport as were the claims made for the power of the modern Olympics to spread a message of internationalism.
By way of illustration, consider the involvement of Irish athletes in these inaugural games. Their participation evoked issues of national and cultural identity and were interwoven with questions concerning the organisation of sport on a pan-Ireland basis and the allegiance of teams in international competition. The Irish Free State (IFS) had been established in 1922, though six counties of Ireland had remained part of the United Kingdom (UK). This territory was to become known as Northern Ireland. In the following period, culminating in the establishment of the Irish/Eire Constitution (1937), several amendments were made to IFS laws that removed reference to an oath of allegiance to the British crown and severed links to UK jurisdiction, but crucially maintained that ‘the whole island of Ireland its islands and the territorial seas’ formed a single ‘national territory’.