Defending politics against sport

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Politics is often represented as the villain in the drama of staging sport events. Sport, with its use of virtuous rhetoric, which often talks about the celebration of human endeavours, the improvements to people’s health, or how it can uplift communities and economies, can often present itself as the innocent, becoming corrupted and tainted when politics interferes. This relationship and simplistic portrayal needs more critical scrutiny. In the first instance, it is easy to dismiss the familiar clarion call that sport and politics should not mix, when organisers find themselves faced with possible disruptions or cancellations to their events by protestors or other political events. No serious academic would accept the sport not mixing with politics as an accurate description of what actually takes place, nor as a realistic or attainable goal. What, however, is rarely considered or discussed is just how sport and particularly large scale sport events, can potentially be damaging to effective political processes. This paper will therefore flip the traditional perspective of politics damaging sport, to consider how sport can actually damage politics. To frame the discussion, the works of Crick (2005) and Flinders (2010 & 2012) are used, which focus on why politics should be seen as something positive and which must be defended. Examining a range of cases studies, such the mega events of the Olympics and Soccer world cup, this paper explains and illustrates how sport can be the ‘corruptor’ or the more negative partner in the relationship. It concludes by showing why a more nuanced approach is necessary to examine the sport/politics relationship, explaining why sport and politics must mix is inevitable, often necessary, but that it should not be at the expense of effective political engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLSA – Creating Leisure, Bournemouth
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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