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Diplomatic Games

Sport, Statecraft, and International Relations since 1945

edited by Heather L. Dichter and Andrew L. Johns. with contributions by Andrew L. Johns, Heather L. Dichter, Evelyn Mertin, Jenifer Parks, Aviston D. Downes, Cesar R. Torres, Pascal Charitas, Antonio Sotomayer, John Soares, Kevin B. Witherspoon, Nicholas

Publication Year: 2014

International sporting events, including the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, have experienced profound growth in popularity and significance since the mid-twentieth century. Sports often facilitate diplomacy, revealing common interests across borders and uniting groups of people who are otherwise divided by history, ethnicity, or politics. In many countries, popular athletes have become diplomatic envoys. Sport is an arena in which international conflict and compromise find expression, yet the impact of sports on foreign relations has not been widely studied by scholars.

In Diplomatic Games, a team of international scholars examines how the nexus of sport and foreign relations has driven political and cultural change since 1945, demonstrating how governments have used athletic competition to maintain and strengthen alliances, promote policies, and increase national prestige. The contributors investigate topics such as China's use of sports to oppose Western imperialism, the ways in which sports helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, and the impact of the United States' 1980 Olympic boycott on U.S.-Soviet relations. Bringing together innovative scholarship from around the globe, this groundbreaking collection makes a compelling case for the use of sport as a lens through which to view international relations.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy and Peace

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Andrew L. Johns

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pp. 1-16

In late February 2013, former NBA star Dennis Rodman visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR K) in what several media outlets characterized as a “basketball diplomacy” mission aimed at encouraging “openness and better relations with the outside world.” Rodman, whose antics both on and off the court overshadowed his prodigious...

Part I. Alliance Politics

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1. “A Game of Political Ice Hockey”

Heather L. Dichter

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pp. 19-52

The creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO ) in 1949 was designed to keep the United States involved in European affairs, both to prevent a return to the American isolationism that developed after World War I and to serve as a bulwark against the increasing...

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2. Steadfast Friendship and Brotherly Help

Evelyn Mertin

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pp. 53-84

The bipolar power structure of the Cold War suggests clearly delineated concepts of friends and foes both within and between both blocs. This model of international politics also transferred over to the sport relationships of the involved nations, inevitably having an impact on the international...

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3. Welcoming the “Third World”

Jenifer Parks

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pp. 85-114

In a 1959 article on sport exchanges titled “Za Druzhbu!” (To Friendship!), the vice president of the National Olympic Committee (NOC ) of the USSR , Mikhail Pesliak, announced the first Soviet sports delegation to Africa. Ukrainian soccer players had traveled to Egypt, Sudan, and...

Part II. The Decolonizing World

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4. Forging Africa-Caribbean Solidarity within the Commonwealth?

Aviston D. Downes

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pp. 117-150

The impact of the international anti-apartheid sports campaign on West Indies cricket is a theme that has attracted some attention within a celebratory nationalist framework.1 The subject has also attracted modest attention by other historians and political scientists interested in the wider...

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5. Peronism, International Sport, and Diplomacy

Cesar R. Torres

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pp. 151-182

On June 4, 1943, a nationalist coup d’état overthrew the weak and corrupt government of Ramón Castillo, ending the decade of oligarchic rule that had begun with the first coup d’état in the history of Argentina in 1930. Then Col. Juan Domingo Perón became a prominent official in the...

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6. A More Flexible Domination

Pascal Charitas

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pp. 183-214

The global upheaval caused by World War II called into question the continuation of colonial domination. Indeed, the progressive liberation of populations oppressed by colonialism and the resulting advent of the Third World were supported by the two superpowers of the Cold War...

Part III. East-West Rivalries

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7. The Cold War Games of a Colonial Latin American Nation

Antonio Sotomayor

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pp. 217-250

As an “unincorporated territory” of the United States yet as part of Latin America and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico presents multiple problems for academic study in areas that include nationalism, colonial/postcolonial studies, democracy/imperialism, and, of course, the politics of Olympism. Puerto Rico’s balancing...

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8. “Our Way of Life against Theirs”

John Soares

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pp. 251-296

By March 1968, Canadians were sick of losing international hockey competitions to the Soviet Union. Hockey was their national game; even the Russians recognized Canada as “the homeland of hockey.”1 But the USSR had started a streak of world championships in 1963 that was unmatched...

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9. “Fuzz Kids” and “Musclemen’’

Kevin B. Witherspoon

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pp. 297-326

The 1972 Olympic basketball gold-medal game is widely considered one of the most memorable—and from the American perspective, notorious— sporting events ever played. The American team, undefeated in Olympic play up to that point and heavily favored in the game, lost to the Soviets...

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10. The White House Games

Nicholas Evan Sarantakes

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pp. 327-358

The Greeks of antiquity invented both international relations and international sport. Despite this shared origin, scholars have rarely studied sport and international affairs in conjunction with one another. The modern Olympics are a natural venue for scholars of international affairs interested...

Part IV. Sport as Public Diplomacy

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11. Reclaiming the Slopes

Wanda Ellen Wakefield

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pp. 361-384

Although the task of fighting and defeating the war machines of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire was daunting for the United States, the struggle to ensure postwar peace and prosperity proved to be a significant challenge as well. When the war ended, both Germany and Japan...

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12. Politics First, Competition Second

Fan Hong and Lu Zhouxiang

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pp. 385-408

Sport is not only a major form of human interaction but also one of the central ways in which a society reflects its ideology and identity, as well as its place in international politics and relations. This is particularly true in China, where sport has played an important role in the country’s political...

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13. Reds, Revolutionaries, and Racists

Scott Laderman

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pp. 409-430

Paul Holmes had a dream. It was the early 1980s, and Ronald Reagan was president, the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, and the American loss in Vietnam was less than a decade old. Holmes was a British-born surfer living in the United States. Like most surfers, he fantasized about a terra...

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Thomas W. Zeiler

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pp. 431-446

Scholars and almost all commentators, save for an unsophisticated crowd of sport addicts and die-hard fans, have long acknowledged that athletics are not just fun and games. As these essays show, sport is situated far from that realm of child’s play and spectator interest. For a while now...

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pp. 447-450

This project began during a conversation at the book exhibit at the American Historical Association conference in San Diego in January 2010. We ran into each other unexpectedly for the first time in two years, and in the course of catching up and talking about college football, we had an...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 451-476


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pp. 477-480


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pp. 481-488

Editorial Board, Other Works in the Series

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813145655
E-ISBN-10: 0813145651
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813145648

Page Count: 406
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy and Peace