Category Archives: Sports

Sport Politics: Acquiring and Trading State Legitimacy Through Sport

sponsorship-on-fc-barcelona-shirts-qatar

Qatar has been one of the most acquisitive countries in the world in its thirst for legitimacy through sports

Liverpool won yesterday. I don’t like soccer. I don’t watch it (unless Liverpool are playing), I don’t play the game, nor have I any interest in its tactics, development, or the circus that surrounds the professional game. But because Liverpool won yesterday, I feel better today. I have been a fan of Liverpool since I was eight or nine years old, when in order to belong in my class at school, I chose a team (there were two choices; the other was Manchester United. I hate Manchester United.). Even though I’m much older now, and deeply understand the naivety of choosing to support a foreign team playing a foreign game where grown men (often racist, always straight, and sometimes with a penchant for violence) kick a ball around a field, it reaches deep inside of me when they win, and when they lose. Sport is an extremely powerful social force, and in the past thirty years, bankers and politicians have learned how to control that force in an unprecedented way.

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Platform, Identity, Capital, Regulation: The New State

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

So let’s say the State becomes a platform, like we talked about in the last post.  In order to participate in the State, in order to pay taxes, and get educational accreditation, access healthcare, and to get licensed to own dogs, own a gun, or drive a car, you need to subscribe to the platform.  Let’s say then that the platform allows for commercial entities to participate, to advertise their wares on the State Platform, to ‘compete’ for consumer attention based on big data analysis of citizen behaviour and experience.  What are the other things that are happening with technology that impact upon the evolution of the state?

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Sport as State Legitimator in Cuba

Cuban hero Teofilo Stevenson boxing at the 1976 Olympics

State Legitimacy is a big topic.  Yesterday, the good people at the University acceded to my request for external reader status, giving me access to the University subscriptions to online journals.  I didn’t have a ready made list of journals to download (remote access is unfortunately not available to “external readers”) so I sat down and began searching on some of the keywords.  “State Legitimacy” was first; then “Nation State”.  Lots of results, lots of articles, including one particularly interesting piece on Cuba’s efforts to bolster State Legitimacy based on sports.  As the abstract explains,

A crucial element of the legitimating discourse of the Cuban state, domestically and internationally, has been the relative success of its sports teams in international competition. As symbols of the strength of the state and one of the few remaining “successes” of the Revolution, Cuban sports performances remain vital symbolic capital for current and future administrations.

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The Illegitimate IOC?

Wednesday’s Op-Ed by Jules Boykoff in the New York Times criticises the IOC for its elitism and arrogance.  Sidestepping the conventional criticism of corruption, Boykoff attacks governance, the preponderance of royalty on the committee, and, essentially, its condescension.  It is in effect a commercial construct that denies accountability (such as the ethics committee who report to the IOC executive, populated no doubt by – as Sir Humphrey would refer to them – sound men) and retains, as he concludes, “the arrogance and aloofness” that make it very ordinary indeed.

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Social Networks, MNC Legitimacy, and Brand Power

I linked yesterday to Ann-Marie Slaughter‘s excellent presentation to PopTech on International Relations and the non-state actors that influence and even dictate so much development in the world.  Watching it again this morning (and it’s worth watching twice) a number of questions crossed my mind.  First, she talks about social actors and ad hoc networks, but never quite gets to social networks.  Just as ad-hoc supra-national organisations are bringing together strange bedfellows, and getting ahead of the State actors in driving change, people are developing connections and social networks beyond traditional family and even cultural groups; one could argue that technological change is facilitating the re-structuring of the DNA of culture.  Kin, geography, language, religion and race remain important, but they are no longer the exclusive determinants of social alignment.  People connect now through trade, sports, entertainment, hobbies, and other interests, forming close relationships.  People’s identity – closely tied to these relationships – is changing.  National identity is less relevant.

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