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How realistic is the view that sport can and should remain uninfluenced by politics and politicians?

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Introduction

How realistic is the view that sport can and should remain uninfluenced by politics and politicians? "It is hard to believe that anyone will ever be able to say again, with a straight face, that sport is nothing to do with politics." (Whannel, 1986, P.2) This coming after the events of the 1980 Moscow Olympics that saw a boycott by the United States as well as athletes from Britain competing under the Olympic, not the British flag after fighting parliamentary intervention in order to take part. Up to this period before the early 1980's, which saw "a considerable growth in interest in the relationship between politics and sport," (Polley, 1998, P.13) there was a widely held popular belief that sport and politics did not naturally belong together. And even now there are still many, David Coltart being one, who hold this view. Writing for the Daily Telegraph (31/12/2002), he says, "it is entirely correct to keep politics out of sport." But whether sport should remain uninfluenced by politics and politicians is an entirely different question to whether sport can remain uninfluenced by politics. I will first try and answer the question whether or not sport can remain uninfluenced before I deal with whether or not it should. The view that sport and politics do not naturally belong together assumes, for example, "that sport is a free and voluntary activity that works beyond the constraints of the prevailing political economy; that sport is a private activity in which political agencies have no business; and that when political agencies do get involved, they invariably damage, corrupt, or pervert sport." ...read more.

Middle

(Allison, 1983, P.30) The view of 'politics as power' reminds us that sport often has its own internal 'political' struggles. Because most sport is controlled by a hierarchy of international and national ruling bodies, which have power and authority in that sport to determine the rules and the structure and rewards of competition etc, there will inevitably be some degree of conflict between groups at different levels of the hierarchy as well as some sort of struggle to gain key places in the sports administration for the reasons stated above. And relating to matters of influence over peoples behaviour; normally governments are the most influential agencies in a state, so this view of politics covers much the same ground as the first. The third interrelated conception of politics "is that it is not bought into being by government or buy the existence of power relationships as such but by disputes. Politics then concerns the processes by which clashes of values, interests and strategies are resolved or eased." (Allison, 1983, P.30). In this sense, modern sport generates an enormous amount of politics. For example, in South Africa there has been a great deal of conflict over who should control South African sports, the multi-racial sports bodies or the white-dominated sports bodies, which the government has more regularly sided with. Numerous changes happening the world simultaneously have had a big effect on sport. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is not only the players who sometimes feel the need to tackle political issues, "the broad fact is that sports bodies on occasion have to confront inter-state political issues." (Allison, 1983, P.33) This was no more evident when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) excluded South Africa from the Olympic movement, not because of governmental pressure, but because the social and economic system in South Africa does not allow sport to be practiced there in accordance with the IOC's own rules as laid down in the Olympic Charter. The Welsh Hockey association's decision to not send a team to Argentina in 1985 because of the ill feeling that could still have been left over after the Falklands War is another example of a sporting body taking into account political situations before making a decision. There are so many examples of sport being influenced by politics over the years and so much theoretical evidence linking the two to say sport can remain uninfluenced by politics and politicians. Whether or not sport should remain uninfluenced by politics is of much wider debate. Events in Zimbabwe have highlighted many peoples opinions that sport and everyone involved in it has a responsibility to make sure important political issues such as the Mugabe regime are not ignored and that something is done to try and resolve them. But whatever view you may have on whether it is right for sport to get involved with politics, it becomes apparent that "sport and politics cannot be mutually isolated" (Allison. 1983, P.29) however much the sports enthusiast would wish them to be. ...read more.

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