37th & The World

37th & The World: Using Sport in Diplomacy

December 06, 2023 Georgetown Journal of International Affairs (GJIA) Season 4 Episode 2
37th & The World
37th & The World: Using Sport in Diplomacy
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Show Notes Transcript

Sports competitions have played out internationally for hundreds of years and undoubtedly received sustained international attention today. But the application of Sports to international diplomacy, "sports diplomacy", is a new concept in international relations.

GJIA sits down with Dr Stuart Murray, Associate Professor at Bond University, Australia, and a Global Fellow at the Academy of Sport at Edinburgh University. He is also the author of "Sports Diplomacy: Origins, Theory, and Practice", which offers an accessible overview of the role sports plays in international relations and diplomacy.

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Calla O'Neil:

You're listening to 37 in the world, the official podcast of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, the flagship academic publication of Georgetown University's wall School of Foreign Service. On 37th in the world, we dive into crucial global trends and speak directly with experts working on issues ranging from security to the economy, technology to society and more.

Rachel Li:

sports competitions have played out on the international stage for hundreds of years and undoubtedly received sustained international attention today from the Olympics to the FIFA World Cup to the Asian Games. However, the application of sports to international diplomacy or sports diplomacy is a much newer and largely unexplored area of development within international relations, but one that could potentially have a wide global impact. Jia has sat down with Dr. Stuart Murray to understand the rise of sports to policy and need for continued scholarship and work in this area. Dr. Murray is an associate professor in international relations and diplomacy at Bonn University Australia, a global Fellow at the Academy of sport, the University of Edinburgh, and an adjunct research fellow at Griffith University in Australia. As a consultant he has worked with the British Council, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the International Olympic Academy, and many others in he's also a co founder of the sports diplomacy Alliance. And this interview, Dr. Murray explains how sports diplomacy should be a viable component of International Relations for any country and for non state actors to listen, thank you for doing this interview with us. So starting off with our first question, in your book titled sports, diplomacy, origins theory and practice, you discuss the long range history of the close intersection of sports and diplomacy, but also recognise that this relationship hasn't been well studied at least until the past decade or two, in contrast to the extensive understandings of sports and politics. So how exactly would you define the difference between sports, politics and sports diplomacy? And why do you think sports diplomacy has fallen under the academic radar for much longer?

Dr. Stuart Murray:

So the really good question to start with Rachel and I think we'll divide it in two, I could talk to you about history, I'm obsessed with pre history of sports diplomacy, as well. And I enjoy telling the Greeks that they didn't invent the truth. It was the first Australians, which I actually mentioned that the International Olympic Academy to, to great, great joy. And be the first the first question yes, the difference between Sport politics and sports diplomacy. It's it's the same as the difference between politics and diplomacy. Why will you have two different terms so sports, politics and sports diplomacy can follow the same path and politics is a business many parties that consider the business of war and peace. There's no rules really, it's there's sort of a Ambit is domestic, no training or exams required to enter politics, anyone can play usually a large budget, security of job so unless you're really, really bad at it. And whereas diplomacy is one party only peace, lots and lots of rules, we operate International Space largely, you have to do trading and exams to get in a select elite few few can play at small budget and diplomats are a constant, they're threatened species in terms of government and fiscal sharks that sort of cruise around trying to slash the budgets, that Ministry of Foreign Affairs is usually the first to get cut and the Ministry of Defence is the first to get increased. So sports politics and sports diplomacy is exactly the same. And of course, the I think the confusion stems from that overlap Rachel. And so politics, diplomacy, sport overlap the three areas all the time and we had an example in Australia during the Australian Open with Novak Djokovic he was unvaccinated came to Australia in the middle of COVID pandemic and wanting to play or Prime Minister's anti immigration. So he arrived he couldn't help himself he ran on this platform and an election year and subsequently Serbia then recall this Ambassador cancelled a huge contract for bhp. So that was a really good example of the three the three areas mixing but I think the confusion is is problematic, you know, we need to understand what it is. And if we think can keep confusing the two it's it's not very helpful. And the second question why are we under the radar mo Why is diplomacy under the radar? Magnificent misunderstood marginalised diplomacy and stereotypes and cliched seen as something creepy? Very mele Institute and none of its true you know the cliche of diplomacy is very unhelpful and you know the diplomacy is the engine room of International Affairs. It's about order society civility as an Sato says it's the best means devised by civilization. To ensure relations aren't governed by force alone. And so it's a hero with diplomacy only people only care but it doesn't. It doesn't walk to him or when it feels. So I think it sports diplomacy is a subfield of diplomatic studies. The first wave of scholars, and Simon roof Jeff Pegman, and myself are all diplomatic studies scholars. And so I think the marginalisation comes from our mother, Mother discipline. And but it's we're getting we're getting more central air ritual, which is a good thing. It's early in the game, so to speak.

Rachel Li:

Yeah, for sure. You're right. It's definitely an important and necessary distinction to make, and especially the role that sports as something that's so widely shared across the world, the role that that plays with it, I think it's really

Dr. Stuart Murray:

important. You didn't say the exact what I'm nobody likes it, I think it's there's a theoretical angle as well. You know, scientific methods that we like to draw boxes are in things and study them separately. And that's really, really important and interdisciplinarity can only take us so far. Going

Rachel Li:

off of that. There's arguably no question that sports serve as a sort of universal language that can bring out the good in participants as they strive to better themselves and their team, but also represent something that's bigger than themselves. Well, what do you think is the exact process by which sports diplomacy takes those lessons from sports, and embeds them into the diplomacy aspect? Is it vice versa, where the diplomacy of a country has those values? And then sports diplomacy elevates those values through whichever given sport?

Dr. Stuart Murray:

And I really, really like this question, Rachel M. Again, I'll go back and say, look, a second time car salesman, but I see these sorts of things. And you know that there's a lot of cliches around sports as well. And sports is a universal language brings out the good in people, it also brings out the bots and people refer you to the Cuban volleyball team playing a tournament, and I think it was Iceland, were five of the players were convicted for rate, you know, these are, these are really problematic images. So sport is not quite a universal language. And it says that does have this sort of Janus faced nature. And that brings out the good and the bad and this question about sports diplomacy, that's this relationship between the two terms. For a theorist, there was a dream to crush these two terms together. We had digital diplomacy, public secret, and so on. But but no one really had a good look at sport. When we started to look at the two towns they they're remarkably similar sport and diplomacy. And they're eatin Shin as civic devices and overcoming estrangement between groups of disparate people. diplomats and sports people represent the sort of a wheat stratum of society. Would it be fair to say that both international sports people and diplomats are highly, highly patriotic individuals, you know, to serve the state is a great honour both want to win for the country, force people and diplomats compete these dramatic stadiums around the world. Diplomats compete in great contests involving rules secret players, tactics, spectator. So diplomats and sports people are really quite similar. You know, they compete in zero sum games that are played out and maryada international venues watched by the media or the public. In fact, we only see the difference between the two is the clothes that they wear, and the training we received. So a part of a research I'll talk to you about that later, but we treat international sports people as a as diplomats and tracksuits. That's what, that's what we call them. So so as both are really, really, highly complementary. Now, Rachel,

Rachel Li:

you mentioned specifically the aspect of wanting to win for your country and inherent to the nature of any sport is competition. And One common way people see different nations represented on the international sport stage is through very high level competition. So for example, the Olympics or other World Cups and World Championships, teams are seen as representing their country. Well, when they defeat other countries teams almost like a form of asserting the soft power of one's own country, how can countries ensure that their sports diplomacy does not become a form of soft power, but is rather an exchange of cultural or political ideas?

Dr. Stuart Murray:

I think we can, again, start with this. They say term soft, soft power is a very interesting term and sports diplomacy is often kind of lumped under soft power or public diplomacy or cultural diplomacy. And where its source of meaning sorts of a it gets a bit lost. And when it's considered the ones like music or art, you know, they're very different forms of culture. And I think sport needs to be single though. I've got a lot of problems with the term soft power as well. It's a it's a Western term may was created by juice at night, you know, a terrific scholar, and also the father of neoliberalism. And if you read Mark Fisher's work, capsule was three years and this is a this is a big problem. I speak to fans say people we work with in the Pacific and for example, and they say what soft about power powers compelling us to try to move us from one point to another whether three attraction or poor option. So you know good Declan Matson are trying to always counter the excesses of power and International Affairs I think with with sports diplomacy when we confuse it with culture soft power. Another problem of course, is sports washing is a term that's often used are confused with sports diplomacy as well. So I think it's really important to see what sports diplomacy is. And we work for years and years on this term at sports diplomacy is a new term to describe an old practice. The conscious use a sport to bring strangers together via the physical world of sport as the strategic use of sports to bring people nations and institutions closer together. Via shared love of physical pursuits and state and non state actors. As well as sports people use the method to build relationships amplifies social, political and economic messages and advance strategic policies. Scotland recently

Rachel Li:

qualified for the 2024 udfa European Football Championship or euro 2024

Unknown:

that start with a hugely significant night for Scotland who've secured their spot at Euro 2024. It's the first time they've qualified automatically for Major finals since 1998. And they've done it with two games to spare.

Rachel Li:

For a country like Scotland that otherwise in political settings isn't regarded as an independent state. For example, Scotland is not its own member to the United Nations. How has sports and sports diplomacy elevated the presence of Scotland on national stage? Or how do you hope it will continue to elevate Scotland or other countries.

Dr. Stuart Murray:

And sadly, I do think Scotland makes the most of its smallest diplomacy assets that are added they have huge assets, particularly you in traditional sports, but more so in Celtic indigenous sports, such as hurling, curling and all the Highland Games, these men wearing kilts throwing larger objects around fields and the Scottish Highlands. But Scotland's are a little bit traditional, and quite conservative. You mentioned the UK, as well. So you know, we're not a sovereign nation. We're a sub state, if you can imagine. So we're limited with what we can do in terms of foreign policy by by certain treaties. And I think you look at other countries as well. It's just a good really good example came just to mention a few other other countries. And myths like sport, you know, there, there are strong and weak teams out there. And there's a lot of countries I feel are setting and on top of a goldmine of sports diplomacy assets, particularly America. And you know, America has got this, you know, part of its culture is sport. And but yet that in you know, diplomacy is supposed to represent that culture. And I don't quite feel State Department, US government really fully represents the, the industry of sport or fully understands the against the power or even understands the economic benefits of it's, so it's I think, you know, there's this disconnect between government and organisations like the NBA and NFL. And it says maybe just an operational budget question. sports diplomacy in the US is lumped under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, it's got a small budget, a small team. And so you guys are just sending in this massive asset, that if you had a strategy if you invested a bit of time and effort and research could be really really useful tool that particularly in a very hawkish environment, trying to win friends and influence people across the Pacific, and others, the Welsh Government and one of the most innovative then on the back of a report 2018 Both towards a Welsh sports diplomacy strategy written by Gavin price and they just incredible work and merging culture, sport, music, art, and I'd refer you to their campaign the Guitar World Cup, as Australians and credit pool particularly Pacific goes sports, the strategy about winning hearts and minds and bodies through the Indo Pacific and China you're countering that and the North Pacific am inviting you know 300 Pacific athletes to train in China other interesting country is Saudi Arabia am a lot of people accuse Saudi of sports washing and but this is a dreadful term a you know, diplomacy and sports diplomacy about building an international society. So behaviour that contributes to building that society and it's not Western society, you know, it says Chinese Saudi Arabia and it's Latin American. So, so these, we need to use trade terms to describe this type of behaviour. So, so tarring Saudi Arabia with sports, washing brushes, is really really quite problematic. All countries could be accused of sports washing.

Rachel Li:

Yeah, I think that's a really important distinction to make. And it's important to think about how even in the language we use We might be helping ourselves or we're limiting ourselves in terms of the broader stage. Where do you see the future of sports diplomacy going? And how can government's better support sports diplomacy? And how can sports communities also better support sports diplomacy?

Dr. Stuart Murray:

So I think it has been dominated so far by governments, academics and academic institutions. And that's, that's a good a good start. I see the future of sports diplomacy more with the professions of other professional sports diplomacy. So here he worked for the NBA in your your post that Africa and you're, you're working with the local government, or local stakeholders not so that's a form of sports diplomacy, if you're working for the US Army, and you're you're using sport to try and win over the locals that's also a using using the method that we call sports diplomacy. So I think professions is really interesting to think about who uses the method commerce, I think the commercial world is really important to engage with things work, he's an academic and you know, I can get my tiny fiddle out here, we're always scraping for money. So you know, it's it's quite hard to really put in a huge amount of time as we've done over the past 10 years and and not be rewarded for it. So I think there's a commercial aspect as well, governments, you know, take the industry seriously, it's treated as seriously as defence health, you know, wealth these these types of institutions their previous Minister of Sport Bridget McKenzie and said for every dollar the students invest in sport they get seven back yet I'm still trying to convince my colleagues in the cabinet that sport should be taken seriously. So you know, that take it seriously fund research, understand that the keys to the sports diplomacy university do not lie with governments, they lie with the non state actors, the particular the sports people, so on the theory of future areas to study Rachele bilateral relationships. And so what role does sport play in the Australia us relationship? Well, the topic for a Fulbright am looking at other sorts of areas, gendered sports diplomacy fascinates me how women can use sport and other other genders to shatter the sort of glass glass ceilings. And then fluence that women, for example, that she is to choose to bore soccer is just really, really impressive to see. And it was it was very satisfying to see Louis Ruby always banned for three years for, you know, an important act to the Women's World Cup final in Australia or the women's standing at the pinnacle of our sport in Korea, and molested by this unsavoury character. So I think that that sort of really agenda is really important, and particularly across the Indo Pacific where we work, and particularly in a country like Australia, and six women have been murdered in the past 10 days at 56. This year, 8 million have reported domestic violence so what role does sport play and amplifying this problem? Am and overcoming was clearly an awful diplomatic relationship between the male gender and the female gender, can sport provide something and that respect? Finally, how can sports communities or sports people get involved politics is politics, it's ugly, particularly in democracy. It's been that way since the days of Pericles dog going to change and that's what it looks like. There's a lot of good people in politics, seated sports at times it's silence and I do come from a sports family I grew up around my father played for 7,000,640 games and my uncle played for the Aberdeen our uncle for Scotland and I grew up in this world. I played myself and but I fell in love with books and, and Guinness. When I was 21 years old and left my last team then Eben sports, I think is siloed. There's this distrust of outsiders, and as well well deserved, I think as well. And but academics especially can help sports people. You know, imagine Adam Silver of the NBA, was trained in diplomacy when he was negotiating with China over the tweet, vote and support Hong Kong protesters. I think of Al Nasser kabhi that they breathe Iranian women. And he took a hijab off amateur proclaiming festival in Singapore a couple of years ago. I would love to work with elnaz Rickerby she was a brave brave woman, a very brave activist, but you can stray back into Iran after she did die she was arrested at the airport our family's houses were demolished a she was made a puppet of the state and who appropriated that, you know, if you want to make a difference. It's not through activism. It's through sports diplomacy. So I think sports diplomats and sports people need training and diplomacy and that's that's what I would suggest you wouldn't send a diplomat to your china without any trading. So why would you send a sports person to China without any any training and I think there's an appetite for force people to weigh on a final example Darcy Graham, the Collingwood Captain calling was a big issue in ruins football team. They've just won the biggest tournament in Australia. And he's studying international relations and is fascinated by sports diplomacy so that we these are the people we want to start to work with educate when so you know that roles are changing Rachel and think the 21st century is a good laboratory to try new positive correlations.

Rachel Li:

Dr. Murray has published dozens of peer reviewed academic journals, several edited books, and a seminal monograph entitled sports diplomacy origins theory and practice. This

Calla O'Neil:

37th in the world, the official podcast of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, please be sure to subscribe and leave a comment and rating on whichever streaming platform you use. To support the podcast. You can click on the link in this podcast description. It says support the show to read other insightful interviews and articles. Please check out good g.georgetown.edu