Examining International Relations In The Realm Of Sports Through History
Although the precise origins of the connection between sports and international relations remain obscure, all cultures have participated over the course of history in different physical competitions that fostered cultural exchange and contributed to their citizens' political discourse. The ancient Egyptians swam, raced, wrestled, and played games with balls. The ancient Greeks held large athletic festivals, including the Olympic Games that drew athletes' attention from all over the ancient world. Two of the very first 'nations' to engage their athletes in sport competitions, were the Greeks and the Romans. They competed in various athletic events like chariot races, throwing the javelin, often relying on the participation of animals, or on the use of mechanical contrivances, a tradition continued into modern times in sports such as dog racing, horse racing, and shooting.
During the Middle Ages, the cultural isolation imposed by the feudal system and religious doctrine that opposed the use of the body for play hampered the development of organized sport in the Western world. For many centuries, contests among knights in tournaments that emphasized military skill were among the only forms of approved, public sports. In the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, games and exercise attained renewed popularity. As had been the case in ancient times, however, politics and social class circumscribed activity. Sports that required wealth or leisure, such as polo or falconry, were the province of the upper classes, affluent nations, while inexpensive, massed sports, such as soccer, took root among commoners and underdeveloped countries.
The late 19th century witnessed an expanding belief in sport as useful recreation and as a mean of interconnectivity between people and nations, while in industrialized societies equipment was standardized, local and national organizations were set up to govern play, and a doctrine of character-building declared sports to be a necessary endeavor for men. The revival of the Olympics in 1896 and the blossoming US intercollegiate athletic system boosted many forms of amateur, or unpaid sports at the same time that professional sports (such as baseball, boxing, and bicycle racing) drew large numbers of spectators. Sports that were traditionally played only in specific countries became by legislative act or general acceptance, national sports, like baseball in the United States, bullfighting in Spain and Mexico, cricket in England, and ice hockey in Canada.
During the 20th century, sports took on an increasingly international flavor as well as the world championships for individual sports, like soccer's World Cup, large-scale international meets, such as the Pan-American Games and the Commonwealth Games, were inaugurated. Sports have correspondingly become increasingly politicized, as the boycott of the 1980 Moscow games by Western nations has shown, or the retaliatory Boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles games by Soviet-bloc nations, an exchange broached on Soviet actions in Afghanistan.
Despite the difficulties that rose over the past, sport events are considered today a great opportunity for individual countries to promote their cultures, politics and trade. The new terms of globalization and international relations came into the scene of economic evolution and affected sport's policies, regulations, communication and society as a whole, by using sports mass acceptance as a dominant tool for international negotations and cultural exchange.