by Molly Jennings
While most pro-athletes were taking the field, others were taking the campaign trail by storm. Sports diplomacy has been a shaping force in this campaign, bringing attention to candidates and athletes alike.
With the recent success of the 2012 Summer Olympics, many U.S. politicians have realized the significance of sports diplomacy. Puja Murgai, stated in an article on politico.com, “Today’s gold medalists, after all, are tomorrow’s sports diplomats.” He suggests that the achievements of athletes and sports teams across the world are just another excuse for political advocacy.
Though it may seem like another way to boost the voting statistics among political candidates, sports diplomacy is important when dealing with foreign policy. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs plays an important role in utilizing sports diplomacy. Through this program, American athletes travel internationally to teach under-privileged children a new sport.
Traveling overseas to support athletics can prove to other countries that the U.S. is a generous and helpful country, thus improving foreign relations.
Linda Hamilton, a former U.S. national soccer player explained in the same article, that sports “transcend borders in a way that you couldn’t working directly government to government.” The sports world exemplifies a non-political service that acts as a gateway when politicians must interact with surrounding countries.
For example, one of the most important sports related foreign relation incidents was “Ping Pong Diplomacy”. Through the sport of international table tennis, Nixon was able to travel to China and solve issues that were arising overseas.
However, sports diplomacy can also be considered a negative issue when discussing the publicity of certain political groups. Presidential candidates spend millions of dollars campaigning whether it is through television commercials or speaking in states across the country. Similarly, politicians are turning to national sports teams to endorse their campaigns.
For example, NASCAR is thought to be a conservative association. In 2008, NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs spoke at the Republican National Convention expressing his support for the McCain-Palin ticket.
Whether sports diplomacy positively affects foreign relations or negatively affects national politics, it is certain that the idea has become more and more prevalent in society today.