Sports and politics

Politics and sports or sports diplomacy describes the use of sport as a means to influence diplomatic, social, and political relations. Sports diplomacy may transcend cultural differences and bring people together.

The use of sports and politics has had both positive and negative implications over history. Sports competitions or activities have had the intention to bring about change in certain cases. Nationalistic fervour is sometimes linked to victories or losses on sports fields.[1]

While the Olympics is often the biggest political example of using sports for diplomatic means, cricket and association football, as well as other sports in the global arena, have also been used in this regard. In the case of Apartheid, sport was used to isolate South Africa and bring about a major overhaul in the country's social structure. While ethnicity and race can cause division, sports can also help blend differences.[2]

Additionally, numerous athletes have sought political office, some of them unsuccessfully, on either the national level or the sub-national level.

Association football

The most infamous declaration of politics and sport was the Football War between El Salvador and Honduras. Though the build-up to the war had to do with more socio-economic issues like immigration and land reform, the impetus for war was an inflammation of tensions set off by rioters during the second North American qualifying round for the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Disturbances broke out during the first game in Tegucigalpa, but the second leg saw the situation get considerably worse in San Salvador. Honduran fans were roughed up, the Honduran flag and national anthem were insulted, and the emotions of both nations became considerably agitated. In retaliation, violence against Salvadoran residents in Honduras, including several Vice Consuls, increased. An unknown number of Salvadorans were killed or brutalized, and tens of thousands began fleeing the country. The press of both nations contributed to a growing climate of near-hysteria, and on June 27, 1969, twelve days after the second-leg game, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador. On July 14, 1969, the Salvadoran army launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States negotiated a cease-fire which took effect on July 20, with the Salvadoran troops withdrawn in early August.[3]

Athletic Bilbao are famous for the cantera policy of signing only Basque players. Along with fellow Basque side Real Sociedad, Bilbao raised the still banned Basque flag in a game shortly after the death of General Francisco Franco.

Israel was one of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation following its own independence in 1948 (prior to that it played under the banner of "Palestine/Eretz Yisrael").[4] After the 1974 Asian Cup in Iran (and a tense loss to Iran[5]), Kuwait and other Arab states refused to play them. Following this, they were expelled from the confederation and spent a few years trying to qualify from such continental bodies as the OFC before joining UEFA.[6]

In the 1986 Mexico World Cup, following the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, Diego Maradona scored a goal via the "Hand of God" to fuel the flames between the two sides. To make matters worse, this was an unrecognised foul using the hand to score a goal.

At the 1998 FIFA World Cup, held in France, Iran recorded their first World Cup victory in the second game, beating the United States 2–1, with Estili and Mahdavikia scoring goals for Iran. The match was preheated with much excitement because of each country's political stance after the Iranian revolution; however, in an act of defiance against all forms of hatred or politics in sports, both sides presented one another with gifts and flowers and stood together for a photograph before the match kicked-off.[7]

The 2004 AFC Asian Cup held in China made headlines due to events that took place during the final between China and Japan, apparently due to historical relations dating back to World War II (see Second Sino-Japanese War and Nanjing Massacre).[8] As the Japanese national anthem was being played, the home fans expressed their anti-Japanese sentiment by drowning out the national anthem with their chants. The Chinese home fans also continually booed the players, visiting fans and officials as they watched Japan defeat China 3–1. After the match, some Chinese fans rioted outside the Beijing Worker's Stadium.

The 2007 AFC Asian Cup was another facet of sporting politics. The victorious Iraqi team came out despite ethnic factionalism in their country and an invasion by the American military to win the biggest Asian football tournament. Following a previous round win, Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Moussawi said they wanted to stop "terrorists, Sunni extremists and criminals from targeting the joy of the people."[9][10][11] There was controversy after the Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud said he "dared not return to his homeland because of the conditions created by the U.S. occupation." President Jalal Talabani said it was disappointing they couldn't celebrate at home with the fans.[12][13] Yet many hailed the victory as a show of unity.[14] Iraq's Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira signified the importance of the win in saying "This is not just about football...this is more important than that...This has brought great happiness to a whole country. This is not about a team, this is about human beings." Likewise, Saudi coach Hélio dos Anjos chimed in that "Iraq deserved to win today...They were very motivated and we knew the whole world was supporting this team."[15] Likewise, the American leadership also came out in praise of the Iraqi win. However, Iraqi midfielder Ahmed Manajid said that if he was not playing for his country he would have fought in his native Fallujah against U.S. forces. He was one of several players who criticised then-U.S. president George W. Bush for using the team's success in his campaign speeches.[16]

Once again, on September 6, 2008, Armenia and Turkey faced each other in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification match in Yerevan. In an unprecedented step, Turkish President Abdullah Gul was invited to watch the match, where he and his Armenia counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, sat together, albeit behind bullet-proof glass. However, the Turkish national anthem was almost drowned out by booing from 35,000 Armenian fans, showing there is still a lot of mistrust between the two countries. However, the gesture "between the presidents showed that they believed 'football diplomacy' had achieved the most important result." This was a first for the two countries divided by the legacy of the 20th century's first genocide.[17][18][19][20][21]

In 2009, France and the Republic of Ireland met in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off, where the winner of the two-legged tie progressed through to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. After a 1–1 aggregate draw, the match went into extra time at France's National Stadium. The winning goal came from France's William Gallas, but in the build-up, Thierry Henry twice handled the ball, before passing to Gallas to score. It was seen as a "Hand of Frog" goal, in reference to the similar "Hand of God" goal in the match between Argentina and England. It the became an international incident with Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen demanding a replay and the French President telling him to "stick to politics".[22] The replay was not given.

In 2010 relations between Iran and the UAE took a turn for the worse when the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran sent a letter to the AFC complaining about the misuse of the Persian Gulf name. "The move was made after the UAE misrepresented the name Persian Gulf during a match between Iran's Sepahan and the UAE's Al Ain. The Emirate television displayed various banners showing a fictitious name for the Persian Gulf during the match between Iran's Sepahan and the UAE's Al Ain. The AFC must take serious measures to deal with UAE actions of the sort", Taj added. “The UAE side must be fined for showing a fictitious name for the Persian Gulf during the live broadcast of the match."[23] In addition to official comments from the UAE in regards to comparing the three disputed islands of Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, held by Iran, to the occupation of Palestine, calls were made for a downgrade of ties.[24] This also comes after the Islamic Solidarity Games, to be held in Iran, were canceled over the dispute of the Persian Gulf label.


Heavyweight champion Max Schmeling had been lauded by the Nazi Party as a heroic symbol of German destiny and Aryan supremacy. A politically charged boxing match with Joe Louis was preceded nationalistic symbolism and imagery. Schmeling defeated Louis, for the latters first professional defeat in 1936. Langston Hughes recalled the national reaction to Louis' defeat.

Schmeling was, however, welcomed home with a jubilant reaction. Hitler sent his wife flowers with the message: "For the wonderful victory of your husband, our greatest German boxer, I must congratulate you with all my heart." Schmeling responded to the accolades saying: "At this moment I have to tell Germany, I have to report to the Führer in particular, that the thoughts of all my countrymen were with me in this fight; that the Führer and his faithful people were thinking of me. This thought gave me the strength to succeed in this fight. It gave me the courage and the endurance to win this victory for Germany's colours."[25]

A rematch was scheduled later in New York City. In the build-up to the event U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered his support: "Joe, we need muscles like yours to beat Germany." Schmeling's hotel was picketed by American protestors after an accompanying Nazi Party publicist declared that a black man could not defeat Schmeling and that when he won, his prize money would be used to build German tanks.[26] Louis won the rematch in a first round knock out and he became the focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to World War II. Louis later recalled the pressure on him before the fight: "I knew I had to get Schmeling good. I had my own personal reasons and the whole damned country was depending me."[25]

Decades later, Muhammad Ali took up political causes in his refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam War amid the civil rights era during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.

After earning the championship, Clay converted his religion to Islam, which instigated conflict with his boxing career. He also abandoned his name that was given to his slave ancestors and adopted Muhammad Ali. On April 28, 1967, he refused to serve in the Army during the Vietnam War, stating religious reasons that it goes against the Qur'an’s teaching. He then became an icon of not only the civil rights struggle, but also the anti-Vietnam War movement. However he was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and stripped of his championship. It was not until a lawsuit in 1970 that Ali redeemed his title. He would continue in historical boxing matches now known as Rumble in the Jungle in 1974 and Thrilla in Manila in 1975, defeating George Foreman and Joe Frazier, respectively.[27]


In 1969, the Marylebone Cricket Club refused to allow Basil D'Oliveira to play for England against South Africa for fear of upseting the apartheid regime. D'Oliveira was a coloured born in South Africa and refused permission to play for the South African team by the government, instead he played for England. D'Oliveria was one of the more likely players to be selected following his performance against Australia in the previous year's Ashes. However, he was not selected; it was suspected at the time[by whom?] that this was capitulation towards the apartheid regime.

Cricket has also had a hand to play in sporting diplomacy. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Soviet pressure on India to deflect the tension they faced, in 1987 Pakistan's president at the time, General Zia ul-Haq, attended a test match between India and Pakistan in Jaipur - a visit that apparently helped cool a flare-up in tensions. Furthermore, following a fifteen year lull in test matches, cricket tours between India and Pakistan were revived in 2004 in the wake of diplomatic initiatives to bury half a century of mutual hostility. Both sides relaxed their tough visa regulations for each other, allowing thousands of fans to travel across the border.[28][29]

In an attempt to replicate the cricket diplomacy of the past General Pervez Musharraf came to India in 2005 ostensibly for a cricket match. The trip, however, quickly took on the air of a summit as the sides were urged "to seize a historic chance to end their dispute over Kashmir."[30][31] Often this rivalry has been tinged with a religious-political bent to it. A Pakistani fan in Karachi ran onto the pitch to attack the Indian captain, and fans threw stones at the Indian players during the match in Karachi. In 2000 right-wing Hindus dug up the cricket pitch in New Delhi to protest against the Pakistani team's visit.[32] Following the Kargil conflict, and at various other times, there have also been calls to suspend cricketing ties between the two countries.[1]

In reference to immigrants from the Caribbean and South Asia, British Conservative party member Norman Tebbit once a "cricket test" could adjudge a persons loyalty to England by determining whether or not they supported the England and Wales cricket team ahead of those from their own countries of origin.

In 2008, the England and Wales Cricket Board cancelled Zimbabwe's 2009 tour of England and suspended all bilateral relations between the two states in response to the situation regarding the 2008 Zimbabwean presidential election.[33] MPs Jack Straw and Tessa Jowell wrote to the International Cricket Council asking then to ban Zimbabwe from international cricket.[34]

China have also gotten in on the cricket diplomacy act. Cross-Strait relations have once again been the impetus for doing so. During the buildup to the 2007 World Cup, Antigua received a $55 million grant to build the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, while Jamaica received $30 million for a new Trelawny stadium. St. Lucia have also got both a cricket and a football stadium courtesy of China. China spent a remarkable $132 million on cricket facilities in the West Indies over the past few years, a massive amount compared to the International Cricket Council's paltry 10-year budget of $70 million to promote cricket globally. It is said that the motive for China's generosity is because "Most of the remaining countries that recognize Taiwan are located in the Caribbean and Latin America." The diplomacy paid off in the end as Grenada and Dominica derecognized Taiwan as an independent country. Further, "Of the remaining 24 countries that recognize Taiwan, four are in the Caribbean and two of these play cricket." Grenada previously had a stadium built by Taiwan, but saw it flattened by a hurricane. To join the action, China quickly came in to erect another stadium. Consequently, Taiwan took Grenada to a New York City court to force the latter to return the original loan.

Put on the back foot, a beleaguered Taiwan also used the World Cup to shore up its position among its shrinking West Indian support base. It doled out $21 million to St. Kitts and Nevis and $12 million to the even smaller St. Vincent and the Grenadines for cricket grounds. China's aggressive ambitions have benefited the Caribbean Islands as "Strategic analysts say China is laying out more money than is needed to just isolate Taiwan. China, which has built large embassies in each of the islands, now has a bigger diplomatic presence in the Caribbean than the United States, the superpower next door." And that "Mainland China's long-term strategy coincides with its foreign policy."[35]

Following the death of Saeed Anwar's daughter he took to a more fundamental Islam and started growing a beard. He was then said to have been the turning point in the Islamisation of the Pakistani cricket team,[36] which was also a reason for Yousuf Youhana's conversion to Islam.[37] From the 2003 World Cup a more visible trend of religion was seen in the Pakistan team with many players having become more devout to the point of either leading prayers or growing beards as a symbol of being a "good Muslim" (with the notable exception of Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria (the latter being the only Hindu on the team).[38] Even post-match interviews were preceded by Islamic salutations such as Bismillah ur Rehman rahim.[36] Most famously, after the loss to arch-rival India at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 Shoaib Malik came under fire for apologising "I want to thank everyone back home in Pakistan and Muslims all over the world. Thank you very much and I’m sorry that we didn’t win, but we did give our 100 per cent" for the defeat, which was particularly ironic considering Irfan Pathan, a Muslim was named Man of the Match for his performance in India's win,[39] and Shah Rukh Khan was in the stands cheering on India.[40] Following the 2007 World Cup and the loss to Ireland (an unranked cricket team), the religious influence was criticised for taking a toll on the team. The Islamisation of such a Western sport in Pakistan was seen as symbolic of the growing influence of religion in every field.[41] In Pakistan, this trend was attributed to dating back to the tenure of the military government of General Zia-ul Haq where the focus of the youth was shifted from Pakistan as a nation-state and cultural-religious pluralism to Islam as a transnational identity, greater attention to conservative Islamic ritualism, and a perception of a global conspiracy against Muslims and admiration for militancy. A need was also seen to reorient sportsmen towards professionalism, discipline and rules and regulations. It was said that the focus of education and socialisation needed to return to a Pakistan that could not afford to be at war.[42]

In 2011, India and Pakistan played each other in the 2011 Cricket World Cup for the first time since 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and a general souring of relations. The event was spontaneously attended by Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani of Pakistan and Manmohan Singh of India. Following the game, permission was granted for the two countries to play regular series against each other.

Formula 1


Amid the Bahraini uprising, called for sports boycotts, comparing the situation in Bahrain with that of apartheid South Africa.[43][44][45] Other human rights protesters also called for a boycott of the Bahrain Grand Prix with more explicit comparisons to the sporting boycott of South Africa.[46][47] On 17 February, it was announced that the second round of GP2 Asia Series, which was to be held at Bahrain International Circuit on 17–19 February, had been cancelled due to security and safety concerns surrounding the protests.[48] On 21 February, the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix, then to take place on 13 March, was again cancelled because of the same concerns.[49] Similarly, the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, which was held amid claims from Bernie Ecclestone that there was no trouble, faced weekly protests and violence leading up to the event.


Going as far back as the 1936 Olympics, Adolf Hitler used this as a stage to promote Aryan nationalism for Germany with his ideological belief of racial supremacy.[50] The Olympics were used as a method of hardening the German spirit and instilling unity among German youth. It was also believed that sport was a "way to weed out the weak, Jewish, and other undesirables."[51] As a result, many Jews and Gypsies were banned from participating in sporting events. While Germany did top the medal table, the Nazi depiction of ethnic Africans as inferior was dispelled by Jesse Owens' gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump events.[52] There were questions as to whether Hitler acknowledged Owens' victories. On the first day of competition, Hitler left the stadium after only shaking hands with the German victors. An Olympic committee member then insisted that Hitler either greet every medalist or none at all; he chose the latter.[53] At the games he was visited by Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas, who offered new shoes to Owens.[54]

Once again, in 1968, the global stage of the Olympics was used to show the world the plight of the African-American struggle during the civil rights movement in their home country. The famous Black Power salute was performed by Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the medal ceremony in Mexico City.

In 1972, some members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed in an attack by Palestinian Black September gunmen that started at the Olympic village and eventually resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by a numerous Western states and their allies in protest of Russian actions. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics the Soviet Bloc led a retaliatory boycott of the games in response to the American-led Moscow games boycott.

Following the cancellation of wrestling at the Olympics in the 2010s, traditional political rivals Iran, Russia and the United States joined forces to annul the measure. The U.S. hosted a publicity event in New York City with athletes from all three countries to campaign for its reinstatement.[55]

Table tennis

Main article: Ping Pong Diplomacy

In the 1970s an exchange of table tennis players from the United States and the People's Republic of China led to a thaw in Sino-American relations that eventually led to U.S. President Richard Nixon's rapprochement with China. It all began when the Chinese table tennis team invited their U.S. counterparts to their country on an all-expense paid trip during the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships in Japan. Time magazine termed it: "The ping heard ‘round the world.'" On April 10, 1971, the team, and accompanying journalists, became the first U.S. sports delegation to enter and break the information blockade since 1949. Although the U.S. team was defeated by their hosts, in return to Premier Chou En-lai’s invitation to more U.S. journalists, the United States government announced that it would lift its 20-year embargo on trade with China. A reporter for Time noted that table tennis was "an apt metaphor for the relations between Washington and Peking" and that both state motioned a willingness to adapt to the new initiative. However, it was not until July 15, that Nixon would finally be the first U.S. president to pay a visit to China. Thirty-six years later, a three-day "Ping-Ping Diplomacy" event was held at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum during the week of June 9, 2008. The original members of the U.S. and Chinese teams from 1971 were present to participate at the event.[56]


In 2008, Shahar Pe'er, Tzipi Obziler, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich were supposed to feature in ATP and WTA tournaments in Doha and Dubai, respectively, despite bans on Israeli passport holders from entering both countries.[6] Peer was refused a visa to Dubai the following year following the Gaza war with the organisers saying "We do not wish to politicise sport but we have to be sensitive to recent events in the whole region and not alienate or put at risk the players or the many tennis fans of different nationalities that we have in the United Arab Emirates." The WTA chief executive Larry Scott later reacted saying some "sanctions" would be issued on Dubai. She also faced protests following the war during a tournament in New Zealand.[57]

During the 2010 US Open tennis tournament India's Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi reached the men's doubles finals, eliciting responses from political leaders in both countries. Supporters from both countries, including the respective United Nations ambassadors, sit in the stands together. Rashid Malik, Pakistan's Davis Cup coach, said "The success of their team so far has been a big encouragement for both countries, it will only have a peaceful and positive impact on their people." Manohar Singh Gill, India's sports minister, asked "I have one question for everyone. If Bopanna and Qureshi can play together, why cannot India and Pakistan?"

The two were also involved in another campaign promoted by the Monaco-based Peace and Sport when they wore sweat shirts with slogans reading "Stop War, Start Tennis." They refer to themselves as the "Indo-Pak Express." Such a high profile collaboration meant this was read as a "unique" partnership. Qureshi said "It just feels like us doing well on the bigger level is getting the message across throughout the world - if me and Rohan can get along so well there's no reason the Indians and Pakistanis can't get along with each other. If even two or three per cent of people say, 'If they can get along why can't we?' that's what we're trying to do. "They're all mixed together sitting in the crowd. You can't tell who is Pakistani and who is Indian. That's the beauty about sports. Before our pairing you would never see that in any sports, fighting for one cause. It's really good to be part of it."[58]

After their finals defeat, Qureshi spoke to the crowd to "say something on behalf of all Pakistanis, [that] every time I come here, there's a wrong perception about the people of Pakistan. They are very friendly, very loving people. We want peace in this world as much as you guys." He then made a political appeal to the controversial "Ground Zero mosque" saying "For me, as a Muslim, that's what makes America the greatest country in the world - freedom of religion, freedom of speech. If the mosque is built, I think it's a huge gesture to all the Muslim community out there in the world. I would really appreciate it." Indian and Pakistani fans filled the stadium for the final as the two U.N. ambassadors again sat together in the President's Box. Pakistan's ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said "They've proven that when Indians and Pakistanis get together we can raise fire. I think on a people-to-people basis, they're setting an example that the politicians should follow."[59]


South Africa

Main article: Sporting boycott of South Africa

Most famously, the sporting boycott of South Africa during Apartheid was said to have played a crucial role in forcing South Africa to open up their society and to end a global isolation. South Africa was excluded from the 1964 Summer Olympics, and many sports' governing bodies expelled or suspended membership of South African affiliates. It was said that the "international boycott of apartheid sport has been a powerful means for sensitising world opinion against apartheid and in mobilising millions of people for action against that despicable system." This boycott "in some cases helped change official policies."

The South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB), a body founded in contravention to the white South African table tennis board, was replaced for the latter by the International Table Tennis Federation. While the SATTB team was able to participate in the world championships held in Stockholm in 1957, team members were immediately refused passports by the government. It ruled that no black could compete internationally except through the white sports body.

Started in 1980, the United Nations "Register of Sports Contacts with South Africa" - a record of sports exchanges with South Africa and a list of sportsmen who have participated in sports events in South Africa - prove to be an effective instrument to discourage collaboration with apartheid sport.[60][61] In the 1980s South Africa was also expelled from most international sports bodies. The International Olympic Committee even adopted a declaration against "apartheid in sport" on June 21, 1988, for the total isolation of apartheid sport.[62][63]

The country's hosting and winning of the 1995 Rugby World Cup was a powerful boost to post-apartheid South Africa's return to the international sporting scene.[32] The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa also drew similar parallels and questions as to whether race could be overcome,[64] this was especially true following the death of Eugene Terreblanche.[65]

United States

Fans of NASCAR are generally considered by the media of the United States to fall within the Republican base as an "almost exclusively white, conservative racing crowd", the "white, middle-aged, working-class Southern men" who were coveted in the first decades of 21st century during electoral campaigns. Joe Gibbs, a NASCAR team owner, spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention.[66] Almost 90 percent of political contributions from those affiliated with NASCAR go to Republican candidates. Texas Governor, Rick Perry sponsored NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte's car for an election campaign in 2010.[67] Labonte was reported to have paid $225,000 to carry the "" logo.[68] In 2000, then Republican primary candidate Rudy Giuliani made an appearance at the Daytona International Speedway.[69]

In the United States elections, 2010, at least five former athletes ran on Republican tickets for political office. Chris Dudley took part in his first political race for Governor of Oregon after playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. He also helped persuade former Philadelphia Eagles' Jon Runyan to run for New Jersey's 3rd congressional district against a first-term Democrat John Adler. Shawn Bradley of the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks ran for a seat in Utah's legislature; Keith Fimian, who played for the Cleveland Browns, sought an House seat from Virginia; and former Washington Redskins' Clint Didier sought a Republican nomination for Senate in Washington state.[70] Only Runyan won his election.

Baseball players union boss Don Fehr contributed to the presidential primaries for George W. Bush, Al Gore, Bill Bradley and John McCain. Cincinnati Reds owner Carl Lindner contributed $1.4 million to the Republican party and $1 million to the US Democratic party.[71] Former MLB pitcher Jim Bunning was also a senator once. NFL quarterback Heath Schuler has served as a member of the House of Representatives, as well as Bill Bradley and Jack Kemp.

Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis planned to run for office from New Jersey, though his attempt was blocked and he awaited an appeal hearing.[72]

In 2002, the US State Department initiated a sports exchange programme entitled SportsUnited to encourage dialogue between children from the ages of 7–17. The programme seeks to bring together international students with their counterparts in the U.S. to establish links with American professional athletes and to expose them to American culture. Another programme encourages U.S. athletes to travel to and learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people face in other countries. SportsUnited has partaken in 15 different sports in nearly 70 countries.[73]


More recently Manny Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives of the Philippines in 2010[74] and Vitali Klitschko was elected to the Ukrainian Parliament as leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform in 2012.[75]

President Serzh Sargsyan is also Chairman of the Armenian Chess Federation.[76] Olympic Champion Yurik Vardanyan is an advisor to Sargsyan.[77]

Red Kelly became a Canadian MP while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu ran three successful campaigns (including a by-election resulting from his own resignation) to become a member of parliament in the Lok Sabha as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate. In the 2009 general election, former captain Mohammed Azharuddin also won a seat in parliament from outside his home territory. Kirti Azad also won a seat in parliament from Darbhanga, Bihar from the BJP. Sachin Tendulkar was sworn in as a MP in the Rajya Sabha on 4 June 2012, while he was active in the sports field.[78] Olympic gold-medalist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore joined the BJP. It was said that, in India, "celebrities...are a time-tested tool for the political parties to tide over their bankruptcy."[79] Former football player Avertano Furtado was also elected as a MLA in Goa. Former hockey player Pargat Singh was also elected as a MLA in Punjab for the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Former chess player Gary Kasparov also became an opposition activist in his native Russia.

Former offshore powerboat racer Daniel Scioli became vice-president of Argentina between 2003 and 2007 and is currently the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, considered one of the most influential political jobs in Argentina. Carlos Espínola, a windsurfer and Olympic medalist, also entered politics and is, as of 2013, mayor of his native city[which?] in Corrientes Province.

In popular culture



External links

  • Sports as cultural diplomacy
  • International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports
  • Sports Dictionary. Some words about Sports Diplomacy
  • When sports and politics collide