2022: geopolitical year for sport

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Should we expect an increase in sports-related geopolitical issues in 2022?

Indeed, the coming sports year promises to be particularly turbulent on a geopolitical level with two very controversial major international events: the Men’s Football World Cup to be held in November in Qatar and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. [JOP] The Beijing winter season kicks off during this interview. The latter, for example, is influenced by the hardening of relations between China and the United States, and the consequent declaration of an American diplomatic boycott… “Because it seems to me that in recent years geopolitical tensions have already been very present in international sports competitions. We can clearly identify the peaks, however, tensions between States were already evident during the Men’s Football World Cup held in Russia in 2018, certain matches of Men’s Football Europe 2021, and even around the Tokyo Games last year, representing a confirmation that sport is more a geopolitical battlefield than ever before. These two major events, the Olympic Games in Beijing or the World Cup in Qatar, would be a singular example of this.

Is sport still a tool in the service of peaceful encounter between peoples?

I totally agree with this assumption because major sporting events literally allow nations, teams, and people of various origins or faiths to meet. On the other hand, I will return to the wording of the question and the use of the term “instrument”, as the IOC or FIFA regularly insist on the unique ability of people to bring together beyond political or religious differences. opposition. On paper this is indeed the case. But that doesn’t mean positive things will come out of it… Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter dreamed of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his organization for its role in pacifying football in conflict. shocking the world but it was totally wrong… Yes, sport can be a tool to bring people and countries together, but we cannot hope to be automated about possible beneficial effects. For such a virtuous cycle to be successful, other actors (political, social, etc.) must intervene. It can also have backlash consequences. International sporting events are even likely to create or increase tensions between the various heroes.

Has the pandemic weighed on geopolitical issues in sports?

Yes, and I tend to respond at three levels. First, I see a clear link between Covid-19 and the fact that more and more athletes today tend to express themselves and take action on social or other issues. Since the arrival of social networks, many things have passed through channels that we are more careful about. With the pandemic, athletes and women have therefore asserted themselves as stakeholders in the geopolitics of sports, while it should be noted that it remains a relatively fragile and predominantly Western phenomenon… On the other hand, Covid-19 has also demonstrated. and to think about this famous “sport of tomorrow” revealed a real need to reform international sports management and think of an alternative model, but I agree that the term is rather vague. Third point: confirmation of the emergence of new tensions and the rise of new global players. I’ve talked about the situation between China and the United States before, and it’s about drawing attention to the growing place that States like Saudi Arabia occupy in sports geopolitics. Since 2015 the kingdom has been investing heavily by hosting major international competitions or investing in structures. The acquisition of English club Newcastle in 2021 testifies to its growing appetite. This arrival, anything but vigilance, can make others even more nervous.
important countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which have long invested in the sports scene, and their immediate neighbors.

Interview by Nicolas Kssis for Sport et Plein air.