Sport within IR / A realistic overview


It is not uncommon that the strategy of the sport system of each state is a reflection of the general situation within the same one shaped by global arena of IR. Many pages have been written in the world in order to understand the role of sport in both internal development and as a tool in international relations. Sport (elite one) is co-opted by politics.[1]



Allison noted that various governments (leaders) have endorsed international sporting competittion as a testing ground for the nation or for a political system. German Nazis, Italian Fascists, Soviet and Cuban Communists, Chinese Maoists, western capitalist democrats, Latin American junars- all have played the game and believed in it.[1] On another hand sports, sporting associations and sport individuals gaining a greater worldwide influence and becoming visible non state actor in the arena of IR. Media influence cannot be neglected and sport has become an indispensable segment of global society.


Institutional positioning of sport within IR

Nowadays sport is the active agent of international development and popularly used term” Sport for Development and Peace” (hereafter SDP). In his speech, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of the importance of sport as a potential facilitator of global social progress, overcoming social and cultural differences based on human rights.[1] In the name of the SDP movement a number of international NPOs (Olympic Solidarity, Right to Play, Playing for Peace, Kicking AIDS out) are engaged in underdeveloped countries through programs such as sports development, post-conflict reconciliation, humanitarian assistance, education and prevention.

Historically speaking, sport played an important role across the globe but it was formally recognized after WWII. Institutional positioning of sport occurred through human rights, development and peace process.  In the 1952, UNESCO recognized sport as a tool for education.[2] Seven year later, by UN Declaration on children rights was acknowledged importance for kids to participate in sport activities as well as an obligation for public authorities to enable conditions for that.[3] In the 1978, UNESCO place sport and physical education as a fundamental right for all introducing an International Charter of Physical Education and Sport.[4]

In the 1991, members of the Commonwealth countries have recognized the unique role of sport in eliminating poverty, promoting individual development as well as funds for the social development.[5] UN adopted numerous resolutions on respecting Olympic ideals and to end all conflicts.[6] End of the millennium has brought adoption of the MINEPS III Punta Del Este Declaration, with specific aim on sport for all.[7] Bearing in mind growing importance of sport, UN General Secretary appointed Special advisor for SDP.[8] Not long after, followed by 1st International Conference on Sport and Development, UN adopted Resolution on SDP.[9] In the 2005, UN proclaimed International Year of Sport and Physical Education, emphasizing the importance of sport for reaching MDGs.[10]

Institutionally, European Sport for All Charter is document within Council of Europe, noting that sport shall be encouraged as an important factor in human development and appropriate support shall be made available out of public funds.[11] Bearing in mind principles from the European Sport for All Charter, European Sport Charter was adopted in 1992 (revised in 2001) in order to set up a joint principles for all at the Pan-EU level representing policy foundation in the field of sport within Coe.[12] As complementary document to the European Sport Charter, acknowledging ethical values that sport stand for, Code of Sports Ethics was adopted.[13]

The Amsterdam Treaty[14] and three years later Nice Declaration on Sport[15] clearly emphasize the social importance of sport. Those documents served as a foundation for the first strategic initiative in sport, the European Commission White Paper on Sport.[16] Document is primarily focused on three segments: societal role, economic importance and organization of sport. In section four, concerning organization, of sport, is stated that there is no unique approach for sport regulation and attempt of Commission will be to encourage sharing of best practice governing models. In the light of numerous disputes, difference in the sport systems, sport is broadly included in the Lisbon Treaty, Article 165[17]:

‘’The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function.’’ (Para. 1)

‘’Developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen.’’ (Para. 2)

‘’The Community and the Member States shall foster cooperation with third countries and the competent international organizations in the field of education and sport, in particular the Council of Europe’’  (Para. 3)[18]

For sport related issues it is important to consider following provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

Public Health, Title XIV:

‘’Union action, which shall complement national policies, shall be directed towards improving public health, preventing physical and mental illness and diseases, and obviating sources of danger to physical and mental health. Such action shall cover the fight against the major health scourges, by promoting research into their causes, their transmission and their prevention, as well as health information and education, and monitoring, early warning of and combating serious cross-border threats to health.’’ (Para. 2)[19]

Free Movement of Persons, Services and Capital, Title IV:

‘’Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union.’’ (Para. 1)

‘’Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.’’ (Para. 2)[20]

The tendency of this chronological display clearly shows the intention to incorporate sport into a number of strategic documents and the activities, thus ensuring the basic conditions for the development of individual societies (countries) on one side and harmonizing within the global community on the other.


[1] Jackson, S. and Haigh, S., (2008). Between and Beyond Politics: Sport and foreign policy in a globalizing world. 11 (4) Sport in Society 354.

[1]Allison, L. (2003). The Changing Politics of Sport. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003. p. 17.

[1] (accessed on 14 of May, 2014).

[1] (accessed on 13 of May, 2014).

[1] 1959 UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

[1] 1978 International Charter of Physical Education and Sport.

[1] 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration.

[1] (accessed on 15 of May, 2014).

[1] 1999 UNESCO Declaration of Punta Del Este.

[1] (accessed on 10 of May, 2014).

[1] UN Resolution A/RES/58/5 (2003).

[1] UN Resolution A/RES/60/9 (2005).

[1] Resolution (76) 41 (1976).

[1] Recommendation No. R (92) 13 REV (1992).

[1] Recommendation No. R (92) 14 REV (1992).

[1] Treaty of Amsterdam Amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties Establishing the European Communities and related Acts., Declaration on Sport. Official Journal C 340, 10 November, 1997.

[1] Treaty of Nice, Amending the Treaty of European Union, the Treaties establishing European Communities and certain related Acts., Declaration on Sport.  Official Journal C 80/8, March, 2001.

[1]COM (2007) 391. July, 2007.

[1] Consolidated version of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, Title XII Education, Vocational Training, Youth and Sport. Official Journal C 115/51.May, 2008.

[1]Ibid., 47.

[1] Ibid., 122.


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