Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Does democracy matter in sport? More sports events are being hosted by authoritarian states using them to gain political legitimacy-BBC Sports, Roan

1/20/15, "Does democracy matter in sport?" BBC Sports, Dan Roan

""Less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup." 

"The words of Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke in the fraught build up to Brazil 2014 may have surprised some people, but they serve as a reminder that sport's relationship with democracy is an uneasy one....

In the 21st Century, more and more sports events seem to be hosted by authoritarian states, using them to gain political legitimacy and strengthen the power and profile of their rulers.

Where once sports turned to Western democracies as the natural place to do business, they increasingly look east, to countries where money, rather than freedom, rules.

Thanks to its vast wealth, the Arab world is becoming a true sporting hub, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular hosting more global events, sponsoring shirts and stadia, and buying up sporting assets to gain exposure, improve their image, and accumulate "soft power" among their trading partners and military allies in the Western world

No matter that Amnesty International says the United Arab Emirates is a "deeply repressive state", a recent report pointing to "a climate of fear, with authorities going to extreme lengths to stamp out any sign of dissent, criticism of calls for reform"....

Repressive regimes have certainly looked to exploit sport for their own political ends. During the Cold War, Communist countries wanted to use Olympic medals as a means of proving the superiority of their ideology over capitalism....

But what role does sport play in democracies?

We are often told here that sport and politics should not mix, that politicians should not meddle with sport, and most sports organisations actively discourage governments from encroaching on their territory....

And when it comes to the furthering of political causes, sport has often shown itself to be more powerful than elected representatives....

England cricketer Moeen Ali wore "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" wristbands during a test match in 2014.

But he was quickly banned from doing so by the International Cricket Council, on the basis that the rules "do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match".

Having tweeted his support for the Yes campaign on the morning of the referendum on Scottish independence, tennis player Andy Murray received a torrent of abuse, via social media and quickly expressed his regret at having revealed his opinion."...

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