Sport and UK soft power: The case of Mount Everest

Richard Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)


Sport is widely acknowledged as an important contributor to the United Kingdom’s soft power resources. This article aims to broaden and deepen our understanding of sport and soft power in the United Kingdom through a case study of British expeditions to, and the eventual conquest of, Mount Everest. Based on original archival research, the article demonstrates that British state institutions intervened systematically and strategically to expedite, and massage the story of, the ascent of Everest to burnish British prestige and present a favourable image to the world. In doing so, the article provides evidence that sport has been intrinsic to the United Kingdom’s diplomatic repertoire and soft power assets for considerably longer than existing accounts discern. Moreover, the Everest case offers important cues for contemporary policymakers. In particular, it demonstrates the need for the United Kingdom to project a clear, credible and consistent image if it is to profit from its soft power resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberBJPIR-1765
Pages (from-to)274-292
Number of pages19
JournalThe British Journal of Politics & International Relations
Issue number2
Early online date6 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Soft power
  • sport
  • diplomacy
  • United Kingdom
  • Mount Everest
  • public diplomacy
  • international prestige

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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