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  • Foreword

Sport has long played a central role on the international stage, and its meaning, purpose, and impact have been debated for just as long. Beginning in Ancient Greece, the Olympic Games offered a respite from incessant fighting between rival city-states—the Olympic Truce—but often became an occasion for geopolitical maneuvering instead. Similar ambiguities arise in the modern world of international sport: do events like the Olympics and the World Cup transcend global political and economic rivalries or provide another high-profile theater to contest them? In addition, as the world has become more interconnected, it is no surprise that interactions through sport have likewise grown more complex and nuanced. Previously well-defined national prerogatives have blurred as athletes, spectators, and managers increasingly cross borders to pursue more lucrative contracts, support (or wager on) a player or team, and even represent a new country on the international stage.

This issue explores the vast yet often overlooked terrain where sport and international relations intersect. To begin, a series of articles examines the role of high-profile international sporting events—and the powerful bodies that oversee them. Cesar Torres lays out the positive case for the Olympics as a vehicle for promoting international harmony. According to this view, competing through sport implies a mutual recognition and affirmation as equals among opponents, which naturally promotes the lofty ideals of the Olympic Movement: international cooperation, harmony, and peace. John Hoberman casts doubt on this beneficent view, arguing that organizations like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA (soccer's governing body) are corrupt and compromised by suspect political alignments.

Adding texture to this debate, Matthew Robinson points out how recent developments such as the internationalization of domestic sports leagues and the increasing ease of migration for athletes are changing the character of events like the Olympics and World Cup. Awista Ayub, in a critique of FIFA's decision to ban the Muslim hijab during a soccer tournament, highlights a set of politically contentious issues that have arisen as athletic participation expands worldwide.

This debate over the meaning and value of sport continues on the micro-level, as Brendan Tuohey, an advocate and practitioner of the sport for development movement, describes how participation in athletics can facilitate reconciliation in specific conflict-ridden settings. His optimism is disputed by Peter Donnelly, however, who contends that sport has often been used as a means of social control—to instill nationalism, ideological conformity, or exclusionary attitudes on race or gender. For this reason, [End Page 1] Donnelly concludes we should be exceedingly skeptical of sport as a tool for building peace.

A final group of articles explores the economics of international sports. Andrew Rose and Mark Spiegel look at the so-called "Olympic effect," the supposed economic boost that comes with hosting a major sporting event. The authors do identify a positive effect on trade—but interestingly find that it also accrues to countries that bid unsuccessfully for such events. Examining the huge costs countries incur preparing to host major events, Stefan Szymanski argues that FIFA and the IOC should change the calculus of their decisionmaking to reward countries for laudable initiatives such as increasing sports participation rather than extravagant facilities.

Turning to the world of sports gambling, Brad Humphreys shows how the rise of an enormous online industry is challenging traditional sports and gaming institutions. Finally, Stephen Wenn and Tim Elcombe discuss a long-running dispute over revenues between the IOC and the United States Olympic Committee—and propose a new formula for sharing television and corporate sponsorship revenues among all stakeholders.

In the Books section, Thomas Hunt reviews Nicholas Sarantakes' Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, the Olympic Boycott, and the Cold War, which paints President Carter's decision as a major diplomatic blunder. We are also pleased to include two reviews from SAIS Review editors: Sean Creehan on Edmund Morris' biography of Teddy Roosevelt, Colonel Roosevelt, and Peter Gruskin on Stephen Kinzer's Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future.

Congratulations to the SAIS Review Prize winners, Amar Bakshi, for his essay "China's Challenge to International Journalism," and Amina Muhtar for a photo essay featuring scenes of Tibetans in exile. [End Page 2...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 1-2
Launched on MUSE
2011-04-14
Open Access
No
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