Conceptualizing of Sport Geopolitics

Document Type : Original Article


1 - Associate Professor of Political Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 – PhD Student of Political Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

3 – M.A Student of Political Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

4 - M.A of Translation Studies, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


Geopolitics of sport is one of the geopolitical modern discourses that addresses and analysis the political consequences of sport matches. Today, sport competitions overshadow relations of states and social- political groups and are knotted with concepts such as national power, competition, convergence, conflict, nationalism, national unity and solidarity and the like, and affect states’ and nations’ attitudes and views towards each other. The tendency of public thoughts to obtain news and information concerning to sport events in the other hand and immense reflection of sport events in mass media of communication from the other hand have caused sport and politics to get increasingly closer to each other. Accepting the idea that the world of sport is quite different from politics and its independence from political games seems a simplistic matter. While some people try to emphasize on this idea that sport and politics must be separate from each other, because sport is one of human spiritual longings and politicians and policymakers activities are out of their spiritual longings. In reality, although one of the International Olympic Committee goals, under giving the concession of Olympic Games, is opposing with misusing of sportsmen and sport, but throughout the history of modern Olympic it cannot be find games which are not affected by politics in different means. Even, the primary Olympic champions were rooted in policies of its own time, which were aimed to draw each other, specially the city- states of the ancient Greece, to competition. Modern Olympics are scenes to state some issues like wars, boycotts, strikes and terrorist attacks that all of these matters are in the domain of politics. In addition, sport because of its content and cultural importance, is strongly knotted with the international political-economic systems.  All of host countries (politicians) use Olympics to progress their countries and to generate national pride and national unity by holding national and identical festivals. It has been said many ethical, philosophical and literary comments about functions of sport. However, each comment underlines one of its aspects and fails to consider other political- social functions of sport. For example, for an enthusiastic evolutionary like Cheguevara, “Football is no just a simple game; it is a weapon of the revolution”. Others, like Merlie Kessler chides football and some of them say, “Football players, like prostitutes, are in the business of ruining their bodies for the pleasure of strangers”.
This article tries to analyze the geopolitical functions of sport competitions using analytical, descriptive and survey methods. At first, social and political functions of sport (28 functions) were determined by referring to library sources, and then a questionnaire was designed in order to compare the importance and affection of the political- social functions of sport competitions. After that, opinions of 30 experts of political sciences, international relations, political geography, sport sciences, and social sciences were collected and studied. Finally, the views were assessed and analyzed using the T-Student and the Friedman tests. These tests raise the question of “Do all factors have the same affection from point of view of experts or not?”. Cranach’s alpha coefficient was used to determine the reliability and validity of the questions. The number obtained is  = α99%. With regards to this fact that the standard level in this test is 75%, the obtained alpha (99%) shows that the questionnaire has collected the needed information more than the standard.
Results and discussion
The results of the research indicate that the most important political-social functions of the discourse of sport are: strengthening nationalism, strengthening the sense of territoriality, developing globalization, strengthening other national identities, athletic competitions as forums to geopolitical gestures, geopolitical seclusion, raising the geopolitical dignity, promoting the terrorist activities, strengthening convergence and weakening divergence, sport as a socializing factor, sport as a unifying factor, sport as a forum to transform the society, sport as a factor that promotes social security and morality, sport as an alternative to war, sport as a propagandistic tool of politicians, neo-liberalism and reification of sportsmen, sport as a factor that creates joy and pride, pattern making from sporting, sexual and ethnic reconstruction, promoting human rights, promoting violence, draining people’s emotional energies, convincing people to accept current status, football as an alternative for religion, deviating people’s attention from their real social position, football as a deconstructing factor in the age of meta-narratives and developing sport tourism in the frame of geopolitical tourism.